This is outrageous!
Government mining papers released by the Green Party this week, and confirmation from the Minister’s office, show that the minerals industry will now have the privilege of being able to veto new conservation park boundaries, in secret.
“The Government has given its mining department a right of veto over all new Park and reserve boundaries, giving the mining industry an advantage over conservation and the public interest,” said Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei.
“It is unacceptable that Crown Minerals will have the power to veto, behind closed doors, the boundaries of new public parks and reserves.”
Crown Minerals and the mining industry work closely together. Crown Minerals describes the mining industry as ‘clients’, on behalf of whom it will “promote the potential contribution of the mineral estate to regional economic development”.
“Giving one industry such privilege and potentially denying the public a right to know is anti-democratic and effectively privatises decisions over managing our public conservation land,” said Mrs Turei.
“If the Government proceeds with this change, the public may never know if Crown Minerals vetoed a boundary. That’s not open and honest Government.”
The Government has adopted the Ministry of Economic Development’s (MED) recommendation: “that DOC notify MED a month prior to publicly notifying a DOC proposal to classify or reclassify an area”. DOC recommended against this veto. The veto is soon to be formalised between the two agencies.
“Classifying or reclassifying an area can mean creating a new park, extending park boundaries, or elevating general conservation land to a higher protected status because of endangered species or special values,” said Mrs Turei.
“Large tracts of conservation land obtained through tenure review, or purchased by Government funds, will become Conservation Parks; however, now the mining industry will be able to control the boundaries.
“In April, the Conservation Minister excluded a high-conservation value area from the Oteake Conservation Park due to lignite deposits, against DOC’s advice. We disagreed completely with his decision, but at least it was done in public. In future such deals will be done in secret.
The MED advice notes that this option: 'Minimises the risk of potential adverse public reaction arising from subsequent amendment of a proposal for mineral related reasons'. Mrs Turei said that this shows the clear intention to allow boundary changes in secret to avoid public outcry.
“It is entirely reasonable that Crown Minerals should advocate for the interests of the mining industry, but it is only fair that there is a level playing field with advocacy for conservation and recreation values, and the public interest." said Mrs Turei. "At the end of the day, it’s public land.”
“This Government, not content with seeking to reverse a political consensus on Schedule 4, is happy to let the mining industry veto public conservation land decisions. It’s not OK, Minister Brownlee.”