Forest & Bird lodges second appeal against Te Kuha coal mine

A view from Te Kuha mountain, back towards Westport on the West Coast, where Stevenson Mining wants to develop a coal mine. Photo: Neil Silverwood - Forest & Bird
A view from Te Kuha mountain, back towards Westport on the West Coast, where Stevenson Mining wants to develop a coal mine. Photo: Neil Silverwood - Forest & Bird
Forest & Bird is appealing a High Court decision which recently found the Crown Minerals Act overrides the Reserves Act, which could allow a West Coast coal mine project to proceed.

The environmental group now has two separate appeals under way over the proposed Te Kuha coal mine project southeast of Westport; one is headed for the Environment Court in July contesting granting of Te Kuha's consents, and the latest will go before the Court of Appeal.

Forest & Bird's West Coast regional manager Jen Miller said the decision, overriding the Reserves Act, set a ''dangerous precedent''.

''There are dozens of council reserves around the country, that the public rightly expects to be protected.

''But it turns out they are not protected from mining,'' she said in a statement yesterday.

Forest & Bird similarly fought coal mine developer Bathurst Resources over the granting of its consents to mine the Denniston Plateau above Westport, and while unsuccessful after almost two years' litigation, Bathurst had to mothball that project after global coal prices had plunged.

Stevenson Mining, which already has a permit under the Crown Minerals Act, proposes to mine coal within a 150ha area.

In October last year, new Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced a ban on all new mining on conservation land, but the Stevenson Mining application would be decided within the existing law.

About 12ha of the proposed mine's 150ha footprint was on conservation land and the remainder was on a Buller District Council water conservation reserve.

The latest court case followed Buller District Council's decision to allow Stevenson Mining access to the Westport Water Conservation Reserve.

Stevenson Mining is also awaiting a decision from the Ministers of Conservation and Energy & Resources on access to the 12ha of conservation land required for the mine.

Ms Miller said in Forest & Bird's view, the Crown Minerals Act did not override the Buller District Council's obligations under the Reserves Act to protect the water conservation reserve's natural features.

''This reserve is pristine, with intact forest that is home to threatened bird, lizard and plant species, including the great spotted kiwi, the South Island fernbird and the West Coast green gecko,'' she said.

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