The angry voices of the public opposed to mining in conservation areas may have been heard last year, with the National government backing down on proposals to open up Schedule 4 areas for mining.
But it’s straight back on the agenda now the Nats are back in power, with the public now denied a say in whether or not an open-cast coal mine on Denniston Plateau public conservation land can go ahead.
Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson confirmed the government had reneged on a promise from July 2010 to publicly notify significant applications to mine on public conservation land.
Australian-owned Bathurst Resources holds the rights to dig up more than 160 hectares of the Denniston Plateau without the New Zealand public being able to voice their concerns, according to Forest & Bird conservation advocate Nicola Vallance.
The mine would be the biggest open-cast coal mine on New Zealand’s conservation estate.
“This stunning landscape belongs to the people of New Zealand and is held in trust for them for future generations,” Vallance said.
The plateau is home to a wide range of native plants and animals that aren’t found anywhere else in New Zealand.
“After last year’s Schedule 4 debate, the government promised New Zealanders that it would give them a say on new mining applications,” Vallance said.
“It is very cynical that [the government] waited until the first day back in office before telling the public they will be shut out of standing up for their natural heritage.”
Nothing exists in the Crown Minerals Act to stop ministers calling for public submissions on the proposed mine.
The nearby Stockton Plateau has been destroyed by an open-cast coal mine.
Bathurst Resources must still acquire resource consent and a concession to build a plant and roads.