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National’s plans for mining and development of conservation land

Written By: - Date published: 6:30 am, July 12th, 2017 - 52 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Conservation, democracy under attack, Environment, Mining - Tags: ,


Forest and Bird Press Release July 11, 2017

OIAs reveal Government plans to circumvent rules for new coal mines

Documents released to Forest & Bird under the Official Information Act show the Government has been working to circumvent environmental protections and public involvement to enable new coal mining on conservation land.

In May, Forest & Bird revealed the Government was working on secret mining plans for the ecologically valuable Buller Plateau.

“The Government and mining companies are acutely aware that new mines are likely to be turned down under the normal consenting process, given the ecological significance of the area,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.

Forest & Bird can reveal that for 18 months, the Government investigated creating ‘Special Economic Zones’ to push through contentious developments, including coal mining on the Buller Plateau.

Special economic zone legislation would give the Government powers to take conservation land and private land, provide tax breaks for favoured developers, and override overseas investment and immigration controls.

“We’re talking about zones where normal environmental, social and democratic safeguards don’t apply,” says Mr Hague.

The OIA documents show that officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment advised Ministers not to proceed with SEZs due to significant ‘social license’ issues and risk of litigation.

Despite these reservations, the documents make clear that Bill English (then Finance Minister), Steven Joyce and some regional and district councils favour special economic zones, and that Local Government New Zealand ‘remains strongly committed to the concept’.

“If this went ahead, anywhere the Government wanted to carry out development – they could. Roading through National Parks, irrigation dams, energy generation, aquaculture, controversial tourism developments – you name it,” says Mr Hague.

Special economic zones would provide the Government with further powers in addition to recent changes to the Resource Management Act that also include a reduction in opportunities for public participation and a new mechanism for fast tracking big projects.

“On the heels of their response to the Supreme Court’s Ruataniwha dam decision, this is yet another example of how far this Government is willing to go in overriding good process to push through their favourite development projects.”

“This Thursday, the government is launching its West Coast Economic Action Plan, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if it contains some sort of favourable treatment for coal mining,” says Mr Hague.

Another workstream discussed in the OIA documents is a ‘single window’ for all necessary approvals for mining developments on the West Coast.

“The Government is seeking to give themselves the powers to push through controversial and damaging projects that would otherwise fail because they breach environmental limits.”

Another region that has been considered for a special economic zone is Southland where the government has been working to force aquaculture development into the waters surrounding Fiordland and Rakiura (Stewart Island) National Parks. A key site being investigated is Port Pegasus in Stewart Island, a location that the briefing paper describes as containing ‘some of the largest areas of near pristine marine habitat in New Zealand, with significant natural heritage values.’

“The Government is ‘picking winners’ rather than letting development projects be assessed on their merits and risks. This is Muldoon’s interventionist ‘Think Big’ model all over again,” says Mr Hague.

Notes for journalists

The briefing paper on SEZs provides evidence of the allegations made by Forest & Bird in May: The Government is planning to expand mining on high conservation value land on the Buller Plateau, based on extracting an assumed 62.3 million tonnes of coal over 20 years.

The briefings for the Minister of Economic Development are titled ‘Briefing: Special economic zones: Confirming next steps’, dated 31 May 2016 and ‘Briefing: Overview and proposed next steps’, dated 24 March 2017.

Photographs of the Buller Plateau can be found here

Relevant sections of the SEZ briefing paper can be viewed here


52 comments on “National’s plans for mining and development of conservation land ”

  1. millsy 1

    1) Coal prices have fallen over the past decade or so
    2) Any new coal mines would be largely automated with only a handful of staff operating them (probably on zero-hour contracts, given that Talleys are expanding into mining).

    • Cinny 1.1

      Crikey coal is the dark ages with the rest of the planet moving away from coal for energy, what the?

      How about a wind farm for energy on the coast, what about a solar panel manufacturing plant?

      I’m shocked that a new coal mine would even be considered on the coast after Pike River.

      Is this all they can offer those on the coast?

      Thanks for the post/info and links, much appreciated. WestCoast/Tasman is electorate we live in.

      • Matiri 1.1.1

        I’m in West Coast Tasman too. Not just about coal mines – the press release also mentions roads through National Parks, controversial tourism developments. The road through Kahurangi NP – Wangapeka to Karamea, and Moa World in the Oparara Arches have already been discussed – all backed by Buller District, West Coast Regional Council, Tasman District.

        • Draco T Bastard

          …all backed by Buller District, West Coast Regional Council, Tasman District.

          Well, all backed by the councillors in secret but I doubt if it’s backed by the people and the councillors aren’t talking to the people.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2

        Is this all they can offer those on the coast?

        It’s National. They’ve had centuries to get used to the idea of coal mining being a Good Thing™. They haven’t had time to get to grips with the idea that it’s now actually a Bad Thing™. That’ll probably take them a few more centuries.

        • David Mac

          Mankind hasn’t been able to find a way to make iron ore into steel without using high quality coking coal. Much of the Westcoast coal is of this variety. A primary shareholder in Pike River was an Indian Foundry/Smelter Co. Most of the first year’s production was to be shipped to them. They were part of the mass chorus putting delivery dates ahead of safety.

          Turning trees into houses with pointy stones is tough work, as is joining the pieces of wood together. We would drop to our knees without steel.

          I think the time will come when we will find a more efficient and kinder to the planet way of producing steel. Thereafter the premium price value of Westcoast coal will diminish, we will of missed the boat.

          A 3 egg omelet for everyone can’t be done by cracking 1 per head.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Mankind hasn’t been able to find a way to make iron ore into steel without using high quality coking coal.

            Wrong. The first steel made was made without coal. Now, there’s certainly difficulty in scaling that method up. In fact, I doubt it can be. There other options that are being researched though.

            Thereafter the premium price value of Westcoast coal will diminish, we will of missed the boat.

            Money is not a valid reason for destroying the world’s ecosystem.

            • David Mac

              We were major exporters when 100 Europeans lived here, whale oil from our waters lit the lamps of the world. When there were a few 1000 of us we searched for gold and Kauri gum to sell to the world. When under steam, the British navy insisted on our Westcoast coal. Our nation was built on this trade.

              I’m invested in farming, mining, forestry and tourism. It built the school my kid goes to, provides me with roads and a Police Force. Those that derive their income from the government are bigger shareholders than I. I’m not sure how you do it Draco but most of us need money.

              We need to get much smarter with how we do it but unless you’re happy with a grass skirt, thatched hut and 2 goats we gotta sell stuff Draco.

              • Draco T Bastard

                We need to get much smarter with how we do it but unless you’re happy with a grass skirt, thatched hut and 2 goats we gotta sell stuff Draco.

                And that is the delusion that you RWNJs don’t seem to be able to see. If we sell all our resources the way you say we need to then we’ll be left with nothing but grass skirts and thatched huts.

                No amount of money, which we won’t have, can replace the resources that we actually need and that we would have sold.

                • David Mac

                  The stone age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. Nor will the fossil fuel age end because we’ve run out of subterranean dead dinosaurs and trees. As soon as it makes sense for me to refuel my car with a turbine in the creek, that’s what I’ll be doing.

                  I’m not a rwnj Draco, but if dependent on mining for a portion of my income I wouldn’t be sending those dollars back to the government. I’d keep and spend my mining dividend.

                  • Employing dull cliches won’t attract useful comment, David. “The stone age didn’t…” is the call of the narrow-minded and indicates a lack of depth with thinking about a topic. The fossil fuel age won’t as you say, end with the final drop of degraded micro-fauna from the sea; it’ll collapse long before there is none at all, but when there’s not enough for the poorer of us (that’s most). You claim not to be a rwnj, but you’re certainly talking their language.

                    • Draco T Bastard


                    • David Mac

                      Yeah, the fossil fuel age will end with regards transport as soon as our thriving turns up something better for the masses and that’s just around the corner. Tesla’s prosperity doesn’t hinge on making cars for eye surgeons, as with Henry Ford, it will come with making one for everyone.

                      You’re welcome to call me whatever names you like Rob, I’m comfortable with the person I am.

                    • David – I’m not calling you names, and won’t. You are discussing a topic of great interest to me but those cliches lower the quality, I reckon. Transport for the masses is a topic that fires-up people here; people love technology, for sure. My position is different and my suggestion is; stay where you are, Use what you have. Do what you can, which I learned today, is not quite the original, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

              • “”grass skirt”? Why would we wear a “grass skirt”?
                Silk, ya know, is made from the fibre excreted by a grub – primitive as!
                And cotton – plant material ! – Troglodyte!
                You’ve gotta have steel though, to make buildings, aye!
                ‘cept yurt and ger. Clever folk, those yakherds. Don’t mention teepee!
                Grass skirts and thatched huts! Thatch – I met a French thatcher – he’s making a very good living. Great technology, thatching.

                • David Mac

                  Ha, yes although it’s more a day for my llama jumpsuit with Kahikatea buttons, I’ll wash my silks.

                  I worked on a thatched roof in Sweden. Spiky for a beginner, dusty and immensely satisfying. The prospect of never going back there again makes ‘stay put’ a bit hard for me to swallow…I’m not brave enough to sail.

                  Yep yurts rock…what to do with all those Chinese folk stacked up so high. I was talking to a Chinese couple recently. They lived on the 32nd floor. I enquired about their view. There isn’t one, all around they look into other apartment buildings. Nor are they allowed to own it. Nobody is. It’s not hard to see why the tiny % that have a few $ are shopping for Kiwi houses.

                  I also made several traditional Swedish stock fences with sticks and vines. Great system I’ve never seen in NZ. They have the advantage of their ground freezing in winter, the permafrost helps stop timber in the ground from rotting.


                  • Staying put’s the hardest for travellin’ men, I guess, but it suits my nature. My French thatcher described capping with mud along the ridgeline and planting iris rhizomes for a beautiful roof-top garden! That cap was a meter across. You have to have good rushes though. We’re exploring the possibilities down here; so far, too soft. Your Swedish fence looks effective if a bit clinical. What vines did you use? Supplejack’s pretty strong stuff, but has to be harvested from the wild, usually. Muehlenbeckia would be the next-best, I reckon. We’re trying ‘living walls’ of willow and a bit of lancewood too. Grafting’s the technique that’ll be much appreciated in the near future; tree houses. We’ve made some hurdles from hazel and willow that fit nicely in my forest garden and they’ve lasted a very long time; all grown on-site and plenty more raw material where that came from; coppicing’s the go!

          • Robert Guyton

            Replace steel with bamboo, David, or a similar growable fibre. Change construction and manufacture to suit. The language you are using in this discussion, “pointy stones” etc. indicates that you are not engaging with good intent, but there’s much that could be explored here, were you not so seemingly prejudiced.

            • David Mac

              I’m all for improving how we do things Rob and I’m confident we will. At this stage of the game I can’t see how we can utilise bulk bamboo without using coal derived steel to cut it, process it, freight it, fasten it etc.

              Finding another way to produce steel is of course just half of the equation, we’d still be mining iron ore. So yes, a grown fibre for concrete reinforcement would be great but we’re not there yet.

              Am I prejudiced or just acknowledging the crucial role steel currently plays in our lives and where it comes from.

              • Steel undoubtedly plays a crucial role in this culture but the argument that we have to continue using it because it’s “the best thing going” is the problem, where coal extraction and burning runs alongside. It’s like cow cockies claiming there’s no better way to farm, ’cause cows return the most profit, and refusing to explore other ways of food production, ignoring the way in which their industry sucks resources and grunt away from any alternative investigations.

                Bamboo can be cut with high-pressure water. Not saying that’s the answer, but just that there are other ways and I’m backing human creativity to provide a culture that doesn’t result in a charred landscape. Once we swing into creating appropriate technologies; appropriate for the global situation we now find ourselves in, we’ll hit our straps and earn our place in the cosmos 🙂

                Termites could be employed to cut bamboo. Beaver, panda, who knows?

                • David Mac

                  Ha! Yep, I nodded right through your comment Rob.

                  Coaxing termites to nibble along our dotted lines….I love that.

                  • Indigenous Australians already make use of termites to hollow out their didgeridoo, I believe. Who’d have imagined that maggots would be employed to clean rotted flesh from healthy human bodies, in hospitals, in this day and age? Appropriate technologies – appropriate to the situation and with the whole planet in mind.

            • james

              Speaking of bamboo etc – didnt you build a yurt? (Serious question). if so did you ever do a blog post etc on it?

              Genuinely interested.

              *Might not have been you – trying to remember where I saw it.

              • I have, James, yes, times 2. I haven’t posted on them yet – saving it for my New Zealand Gardener column, but in the meantime, I’m enormously impressed by Mongolian technologies; yak felt is fiercely insulating, the horse and yak-hair lashings are elegant and strong and the whole larch structure required not one steel nail. Most impressively, it’s round – circular, you might say, and that brings a quality to the experience of being inside that our nailed, “square” buildings don’t even point at.

      • millsy 1.1.3

        My point was that trashing the environment is not worth it.

  2. Philj 2

    Shocking. Nothing in this surprises. I do wonder when the mainstream media will begin to tell the public what is going on. The truth, the whole truth and only the truth.

  3. Ad 3

    Forest and Bird are the best opposition this government has had in three terms.
    They have more wins to their credit than any political party.

    But in the middle of an election I think they need to keep their head down a bit.

    Would have been more effective if they had simply leaked the information rather than launched it themselves.

    • greywarshark 3.1

      I am sincere in this. It would be good if the left parties and entities could employ you as a co-ordinator and bring you in to give an overview of their moves. You of course would be cognisant of their policies and plans and burgeoning schemes but not an advisor, just translate how the message would be received. You would be the devils advocate telling them how they will or won’t co-ordinate the left message with each plan. That would give them the opportunity to adopt a different approach and build a stronger and larger flickering everchanging screen of messages showing long enough to register and build on each other.

      I’ve sold myself on it though I can’t see it happening. A cool, critical eye like yours with lots of pragmatism and some idealism would be so valuable. Pity it wouldn’t. couldn’t happen?

      • Ad 3.1.1

        Cheers for the flattery.

        Plenty who are professional at it, and better than I.

        Will be interesting to see how the Labour’s Anna Lorcke (is she still their Tukituki candidate?) reconciles herself to being the driving force around the public advocacy for the Ruataniwha Dam as Principal of ATTN! marketing http://www.attn.co.nz , but now it’s dead she’s changed her mind.

        Would be better if Labour had a clearer position on dams for intensified agriculture.
        There’s another big dam coming up in Tasman – but this time mostly for horticulture. It’s out for construction tenders already.

        • greywarshark

          Thanks didn’t intend it to be flattery. That sounds slimy. If there are people doing it already, why then would Forest and Bird step outside the charmed circle? It doesn’t sound as if there is real input by all the left.

          Do you think a dam that enables more horticulture is better than one just meant for dairy and the accompanying pollution.

          Marketing firm candidate, adept at getting the right reaction, creating excitement and acceptance of anything new. Suggested slogan –
          Anna Lorcke – not a dork! Dams, mining, we can make it sexy.

          Here’s an example of marketing’s lateral thinking.
          John Cleese – Stringets for instance.

          • Ad

            Forest and Bird are heading to the natural temptation after winning:
            getting cocky.

            Whoever wins the next election, Forest and Bird need to think about getting some wins with the government, and not just attacking.

            For example under this term of National government very, very little has been added to the conservation estate.

            The Remarkables National Park would be a really interesting one to have a go at in partnership with the government.

            I know they were very complimentary about the Kermadec initiative, but they need to figure that winning isn’t only about defeating your opponents – no matter how good you get at it.

            • Robert Guyton

              Cocky, those birds? Yes, Ad, they’re attracting the ire of righties who surely are noticing F&B’s win-rate right now. They are winning significant gains though, for the F&B they’re devoted to protecting. With this Government’s orcish behaviour, being a spanner in the works is a very effective way to protect your interests. Slow-motion deal-making, like the Land & Water forum, are nothing more than delaying and obfuscating, through F&B eyes (F&G, Mountain Clubs also). Kevin Hague is having a powerful effect out of Parliament and his success is a lesson to politicians who value the environment most highly – you can be more effective on a lower branch. From the protection of the twigs and tweets, you can afford to be cocky. In any case, Ad, noise from a bird is often designed to lure predators away from the things of real value.

              • greywarshark

                Yes Robert G those birds are pretty smart if allowed to have a home and their food not taken away, chopped down. Similar to us I think.
                And they can be very strategic and sharp minded when protecting their family, the fake broken wing ploy for one.

                Again a lesson for us to find ways of protecting ourselves against predator economists and business sleaze-bags, and there are many of them around. They look like ordinary people but they lack something, a soul, that would give them pause in their onward rush to bag for themselves what is someone’s, or something meant to be everyones’

    • Loop 3.2

      “But in the middle of an election I think they need to keep their head down a bit.

      Would have been more effective if they had simply leaked the information rather than launched it themselves.”

      Keeping their head down and leaking won’t get it stopped through the courts. I don’t think Forest and Bird would be using their precious resources in going to court if there was an alternative.
      It shouldn’t have to go through the court process, the conservation minister should be doing their job instead of kowtowing to nationals masters, the almighty $$$

  4. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap – apply at your local gnat office – discount if you want to destroy both flora and fauna – 10% off if massive descruction of land for a coal farm and/or dairy farm on or in protected areas. Roll up roll up must destroy today – offer ends when it’s all gone.

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    The Government is planning to expand mining on high conservation value land on the Buller Plateau, based on extracting an assumed 62.3 million tonnes of coal over 20 years.

    Wonder what they plan to do once all that wealth is gone and we have nothing left?

    Wouldn’t be able to produce anything because all the resources would have been sold.
    Farming would be dead in the water due to lack of resources (the stuff used for artificial fertilisers would be gone as well).

    We’d be like Nauru is now that all their phosphate has been dug up an exported. Massive ecological collapse and no resources left to do anything and we wouldn’t have any money either. All of that would have disappeared into the banks of the rich.

    • Loop 5.1

      Visiting a friend years ago out of Westport. He said the coal being sold to Japan at the time was used to expand the land mass of Japan. In other words, stockpiling for the future.

  6. greywarshark 6

    In Bowalley Road Chris Trotter looks at the steely Stalin-like procedures followed by the National Party in following a National plan they have devised, ‘picking winners’ which they officially and publicly disagree with because that;s communism and Bad.

    Chris looks at the way National will override constitutional understandings and precedents to do what they want, ruin the environment, and never say sorry.
    Just like any large bulldozer with a peanut brain driving it.

    Like “Think Big”, the Key-English Plan came with catastrophic environmental side-effects. The massive expansion of New Zealand’s dairy industry could only be accomplished by supplying transitioning farmers with huge quantities of heavily subsidised water. State-funded – and protected – irrigation schemes formed an integral part of the Key-English Plan.

    The constitutional consequences of “The Plan” soon became apparent. When ECan – The Canterbury Regional Council – balked at signing-off on the all-too-obvious ecological devastation associated with implementing water policies aimed at increasing the number of dairy cows in the region from less than 50,000 to nearly half-a-million, the National Government simply dismissed the councillors and brought in commissioners. If the needs of Democracy and the needs of “The Plan” conflicted, then it would not be Democracy that prevailed.

    Now it is the Hawkes Bay and the Ruataniwha Dam. Damn the consequences.
    Damn the high runoff from overstocked, overhyped and overchemicalised farmlands, and of course the pools and piles of cowpoo and wee. We aren’t to even think about the ruminant methane, that’s been drowned out as we worry about this next onslaught in the name of subsidised water for industrial farming, probably owned by some wealthy jerk. He or she may be from overseas and who doesn’t give a pound of tripe for us, or probably owned by some hopefully wealthy in$the$future NZ farmer who can’t wait to sell his property to an overseas buyer and has borrowed money sourced against overseas reserves up to the hilt.

    What a shambles this country is in. But sleep on all you wanna-be prince and princesses, some moist lips might touch you and awaken you to great riches, and nice high heels and high cars and pie-in-the-sky jet trips. All distant from the grassroots you emerged from you pillocks from the hillocks.

    • garibaldi 6.1

      Go greywarshark! “You pillocks from the hillocks”. Love it, and so very true about “the backbone of the country” people…. so tied up in their crazy, doomed attitudes and behaviour. Still in denial, apart from a very few enlightened ones going the organic way.

  7. greywarshark 7

    Backbone, really hard farm work can muck up your discs. The NZ farming backbone is arthritic and dosed up to relieve the pain, deny it and to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ in the same old way but with new subsidies and less constraints – they hope. (Their motto – If it ain’t broke why fix it, and if it is broke, tough so will you be) because that’s what farmers do.

    I wonder if farmers have never forgiven Labour for abruptly removing subsidies and sending some farmers into despair and even suicide. I would harbour a grudge ifit was me. It was callous, capital inefficient, business-unfriendly, and dictatorish behaviour.

    People who had their lives, their business, large loans, their houses and family and community life revolving round their farms should not have been treated in that disgraceful, autocratic manner by the Treasury and Labour smart-arses. Gently should have been the case, as has been done by Gnashional with social welfare, just taking everything down a notch for decades. But both parties have at the end of their particular roads, a scorched earth policy, not a happy, fruitful, enterprising country.

    Appreciation of town and country needs would have beneficial effects on both sides which should soon merge to be on the same side – NZ for all citizens, for ever!

  8. Loop 8

    I think the focus here should be that the government is going to try and change the law to suit themselves, as they did retrospectively to spy on their own citizens. It needs to be stopped, end of story. The aftermath of that law change will be more devastating than anyone can imagine. These clowns are here for the short term, relatively speaking. They don’t seem to have enough vision to see what their grandkids are going to be inheriting. A lot of middle aged say “young kids today, they just want it all now, instant gratification”! What is this if it isn’t instant gratification? Thiel and sirjohns new japanese boss or the like are waiting in the wings for a chance to add to their billions. WTF drives these people that the NEED for MORE can never be satiated?

    • Inner hollowness.

      • greywarshark 8.1.1

        Sounds like hunger Robert. And it is a sort of hunger, a desire to compete and win more money, never to be satisfied, never to find something positive and lasting to give satisfaction, to use up resources profligately, to whittle away standards which weaken whatever so that it doesn’t last long, just to make more profit.

  9. Sanctuary 9

    I am not sure why this would surprise anyone. From knighthoods to the five eyes to destructive dairying this government has exhibited a deeply regressive, colonial/settler mindset. All settlers class their local environment as a foreign, hostile place that exists primarily to be exploited by shysters, speculators and get rich quick schemers, AKA the National party base.

    • Grafton Gully 9.1

      The national party base includes people who put in long hard days between short breaks away. They worry about the weather and how to sell enough to service the debt and support their families. The people who buy their products and the prices they pay dictate what they do with their land. If you want the rural national party base to change you will need to change consumer demand.

      • Sanctuary 9.1.1

        Cry me a river bro. Plenty of people work long, long hours with short days off for the minimum wage.

        Rural exceptionalism and entitlement makes me want to puke.

  10. RedLogix 10

    This new policy brought to you direct from the CCP.

    Worked for them.

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