Govt’s “Special Zones” for Mining

Coromandel Conservation Land Again At Risk

Forest & Bird  has revealed that for 18 months, the Government has been investigated creating ‘Special Economic Zones’ to push through contentious developments to allow mining on conservation land.

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.

Whilst this was not specifically mentioned, this raises the very alarming thought that these “Special Economic Zones” were being considered to allow unrestricted gold mining on conservation land on the Coromandel Peninsula.

The government has form with its previous attempts to facilitate mining on the Coromandel.  Back in 2010 the government tried to remove Schedule 4 protection for conservation land to allow mining on the peninsula, and only backed down when 40,000 people marched in protest up Queen Street.  Then this year the government promoted a land swap to take land out of the conservation estate so that it could be used for the Ruataniwha dam in the Hawke’s Bay.  Fortunately the Supreme Court ruled this was illegal. But then the government have arrogantly said they will change the law to allow these land swaps.  If they manage to change the law this could be used to swap local conservation land out of the DoC estate to facilitate mining.

The proposal for “Special Economic Zones” was been seriously pushed by senior Ministers including Steven Joyce and Bill English. Meanwhile local MP Scott Simpson has been assuring anyone who raises concerns about mining on the peninsula that the current law means that mining is “highly unlikely” to go ahead!  Which raises the interesting question as to whether Scott Simpson was aware of the plans of his senior ministers to essentially wipe away almost all existing environmental protections with these economic zones?

What is equally disturbing is that the documents make clear that some regional and district councils favour special economic zones, and that Local Government New Zealand ‘remains strongly committed to the concept’. So did the Waikato Regional Council and the Thames-Coromandel District Council favour these economic zones also?  Let’s hope not.