Beyond this opening gambit on mining, National clearly has a larger plan.
It is going to back down over Great Barrier, whether or not that was never part of the plan all along. But it is lining up more areas for later on.
The Minister for Energy and Resources (Gerry Brownlee) is going to have co-authority to approve mining on conservation land along with the Minister for Conservation (Kate Wilkinson). Currently, that power rests solely with the Minister for Conservation.
Clearly, this move is intended to allow future mining permits on the conservation estate, both on Schedule 4 and not, to get permission with weaker environmental protections. That’s probably why the surprisingly conservation conscious Tim Groser was moved out of the portfolio recently.
Then there’s all other areas that will be investigated for mining:
â€¢ the Northland region
â€¢ public conservation lands on the Coromandel Peninsula (in Schedule 4)
â€¢ the Southern Coromandel volcanic zone
â€¢ parts of the Central North Island
â€¢ parts of Dun Mountain Ophiolite belt, east of Nelson
â€¢ the granitoids of the Median Batholith outside of national park areas, including those
within the Lyell District, Westland, the Rotoroa Complex near Murchison, and the
Riwaka Complex in northwest Nelson
â€¢ parts of Paparoa National Park (in Schedule 4) excluding the Inangahua Sector
â€¢ the Tapuaenuku Complex near Kaikoura
â€¢ areas potentially containing carbonatite rocks north of Haast River
â€¢ South Island areas with potential for mesothermal gold (in Central Otago and the
â€¢ the Longwood complex in Southland
â€¢ parts of Stewart Island including Rakiura
It’s quite an extensive list, and while the environmental value of these areas is high they tend to be further away from Auckland and, the government will be hoping, less politically sensitive.
The interesting thing about these areas though is that they put the government’s mining agenda even more in conflict with tourism. Great Barrier and Coromandel are largely areas for domestic tourism but the central plateau and the parts of the South Island under threat are sites of much of our international tourism.
Nowhere is this conflict displayed better than at Dun Mountain near Nelson. Supposedly there’s gold in that there hill. But it also happens to be the site of one section of the John Key Memorial Cycleway. So what’s going to win out here? Tourism or mining?
It will be interesting to watch as the government retreats from areas that are too politically hot to mine and instead turns its attentions to areas that are just as important but it thinks will be softer targets. It may find itself in for a surprising coalition of opposition from tourism operators, tramping organisations, and local conservation groups.