Labour/Greens agree to protect Southern Coromandel from mining
Last week a petition with 4,500 signatures was presented to Parliament. The petition called on the Government to extend “Schedule 4” protection from mining to conservation land and beaches in the southern part of the Coromandel. Previous election policies for both Labour and the Greens have included this commitment, but the National Party has always been opposed.
Coromandel Watchdog and Protect Karangahake have welcomed the reaffirmation of this commitment by the Greens and Labour. It is obvious that the only way to achieve full protection for our conservation land is to vote for a change of government.
In 1997 the National government drew an arbitrary line across the Peninsula, (the Kopu Hikuia Road) which protected only the northern area from mining. This was always a weak and absurd compromise, but local National MP Scott Simpson believes drawing a line through the middle of the Conservation Park to protect one side of a road and not the other is “sustainable”:–
“It’s rather arbitrary to be banning mining in all areas, no matter how high or low the conservation value of the land is. I have made it clear since before being elected there are parts of the region where sensible and moderate mining could occur”
What Scott Simpson and National overlook is that all of the conservation land and the waterways and beaches in southern Coromandel Peninsula have amazing landscape, biodiversity and ecological values. The southern conservation areas have over 100 nationally threatened species which are equally, if not more deserving of protection as those to the north. Here are maps of conservation land in the southern area — please tell us Mr Simpson which areas are “low conservation value”?
In 2010, 40,000 people marched up Queen Street in Auckland to keep mining out of Schedule 4 conservation areas on the Coromandel and elsewhere. National wanted to open up large swathes of Coromandel Conservation Park to mining. Both the Greens (led by Green MP and staunch Watchdog supporter Catherine Delahunty) and Labour strongly opposed National’s plans. The National Government was forced to back down.
However, in recent weeks National have devised a new plan using “Economic Zones” as a backdoor way of allowing mining on conservation land.
This map shows the area of conservation land in southern Coromandel which Labour will add to Schedule 4. The Greens commit to protecting all Conservation – nationwide.
Here is a presentation I made to Labour in 2014 which helped firm up Labour’s commitment to protecting southern Coromandel.
Earlier History of Schedule 4
This issue has a long history stretching back to the beginning of the 1980’s. Below is a short history of How Coromandel Watchdog Protected Northern Coromandel Conservation Land & Coast From Mining
The Crown Minerals Act 1991 was amended in 1997 to say that mining could not occur on all conservation land and coast, and most off shore islands north of the Kopu-Hikuia Road. This Amendment arose directly out of the public campaign of opposition to mining on the Coromandel Peninsula begun by Coromandel Watchdog over 15 years earlier.
In the early eighties, a wave of prospecting applications began which culminated in most of the Coromandel Peninsula being under prospecting license. Local communities and environmental groups were under siege, as they tried, on a case-by-case basis, to defeat or impose stricter conditions on scores of these license applications that came before the Planning Tribunal. It became clear that the community could not sustain this opposition, and that amendments to the laws relating to access on to Crown land for prospecting and mining were needed.
I drafted a Private Member’s Bill which prohibited all prospecting and mining on all of the conservation estate on the Coromandel Peninsula north of Te Aroha. I and Mark Tugendhaft approached Christine Fletcher a National MP in the Bolger Government to request she sponsor the Bill. She was supportive but declined. We then approached Labour MP Judith Tizard, who readily agreed.
Almost immediately the Bill won a Private Member’s Ballot and was introduced into Parliament in June 1995. It was referred to a Select Committee after a massive lobbying effort by Watchdog supporters. Over 1000 self-composed letters were sent to key MPs and Ministers. It was the largest lobbying letter-writing campaign on a Bill at that time.
The National Government had a slim majority and fearing that the Tizard Bill might pass in spite of its opposition, decided to introduce its own Bill. This culminated in the Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, including the Fourth Schedule, and the reference to access for prospecting or mining being severely restricted north of the Kopu-Hikuai Road. At the time Watchdog believed this was a weak political compromise as there were areas of great natural beauty and with special conservation values south of the Kopu-Hikuai Road which was equally deserving of protection. However, Watchdog supporters were exhausted from the campaigning and the compromise Amendment was generally accepted as the best that could be achieved at the time.
This is unfinished business which stretches back to the early 1980s. If you seriously want to protect all of the Coromandel conservation land and coast from mining then your only choice is to vote to change the government