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Environmental groups have been accused of stifling development by the chairman of West Coast coal mine developer Bathurst Resources - which is locked in an Environment Court challenge at present.
At Bathurst's annual meeting in Sydney yesterday, chairman Craig Munro thanked shareholders for their "ongoing patience" and confidence in the company, which had been through a challenging year with regard to various appeal processes, but said he remained "optimistic" Bathurst would be in production by mid-2013.
"This is obviously very time-consuming, costly and non-productive from both the company's and the majority of New Zealanders' point of view, but, under current legislation, necessary," he said.
At the forefront of appeals are Royal Forest and Bird and the West Coast Environment Network, which are challenging more than 20 consents granted to Bathurst by West Coast councils more than a year ago.
Mr Munro said, "We appreciate your continued [shareholder] support and patience in a year that has seen us having to focus on what seems like the never-ending appeals process that allows minority groups to stifle development in New Zealand."
The first appeal was mediated and withdrawn, then Bathurst won a second appeal in the Environment Court, which ruled that climate change effects were irrelevant in a challenge against resource consents. This decision was subsequently affirmed by the High Court but is now subject to an appeal to the Court of Appeal. The third appeal is at present being heard by the Environment Court over six weeks and a decision is expected early next year.