Miners cite poll results as support

Mineral sector lobby group Straterra believes New Zealanders support mineral exploration and mining as an avenue towards economic prosperity, but is concerned public awareness still needs to be boosted.

Straterra chief executive Chris Baker said results of a recent 1000-person national poll, showing support and understanding in percentages beyond 70%- 80%, were "surprising", given "the perception that there is a lot of opposition in New Zealand to mining, such as [mining] lignite and gold".

"These results prove otherwise. They [the percentages] are high enough to be a game-changer," he said in an interview yesterday.

The poll found 81% believed it was "very important or quite important" to develop New Zealand's natural resources for prosperity, while 77% were "very concerned or quite concerned" about New Zealand's standard of living.

Mr Baker said the results revealed most New Zealanders supported responsible exploration and mining for minerals, "contrary to what a vocal and persistent minority would have us believe".

"But the results also show relatively poor public understanding of the reality today of minerals activities in New Zealand," Mr Baker said.

"The misinformation advanced by parts of the community, however well-intended, does not help informed debate on our economic future," he said.

He did not identify any group, but the very public, ongoing legal challenges brought against West Coast coal-mine developer Bathurst Resources by Forest and Bird and the West Coast Environment Network have, at times, prompted public claims and counterclaims on the effects of the proposed strip mining.

While the poll found 59% "agreed or agreed strongly" with development of New Zealand's natural resources, Mr Baker emphasised the higher percentages who "agreed or agreed strongly" that: the environment was protected (79%); local people were employed (84%); the minerals sector boosted the economy (83%); money generated stayed in New Zealand (82%); and that mining work was done by New Zealand companies (78%).

He said the facts were that the environmental effects of exploration and mining were managed, New Zealanders were employed and a contribution to the economy did occur.

"Most of the money stays in New Zealand as salaries, taxes, royalties, rates, fees, community contributions and payments to suppliers," Mr Baker said.

On the question of foreign investment, Mr Baker said that as with the wine industry and other sectors, there was a high level of foreign investment in the minerals sector because risk capital had to come from somewhere.

While Straterra wanted to put education programmes in place soon, it was about to enlarge its communications team in Wellington and had arranged a briefing for politicians next week, Mr Baker said.

- simon.hartley@odt.co.nz

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