Mayor wants clarification on diatomite mine proposal

Dave Cull.
Dave Cull.
Dunedin's mayor wants an urgent explanation from the company behind a controversial mining proposal about discrepancies between its official statements and information contained in a leaked report.

In October, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull wrote a letter of support for Australian company Plaman Resources' application to the Overseas Investment Office to buy a property next to its diatomite mine at Foulden Hill, near Middlemarch.

The letter was provided in the context of supporting economic development in Otago, Mr Cull said.

Following the publication of a leaked Goldman Sachs report in the Otago Daily Times, Mr Cull has asked the company to urgently clarify the information contained in the report.

He also asked for a copy of the report.

Information about the quality of the diatomite and the continuing access to the site for scientists needed to be addressed, he said.

''We are concerned the report appears to be at odds with the assurances they gave us and if it turns out those aren't as robust as we thought, we will need to reconsider our support.''

Mr Cull said he was also concerned about comments in the report about the local opposition being too poorly resourced to fight the proposal.

Dunedin City Council chief executive Sue Bidrose co-signed another support letter written by Clutha District Council chief executive Steve Hill in November.

There was an agreement between councils to support each other for work which fitted within the Otago regional economic development strategy, Dr Bidrose said.

Plaman needed to address the issues Mr Cull raised if the council's support was to continue, she said.

A $36million plant could be built near Milton, to process the mineral, if the application was successful and the mine went ahead.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said it was immensely frustrating only one side of the argument was being made public, but at this stage many of the details were still commercially sensitive.

''I think the full story has its rightful place, but that is when it goes through the consenting process.''

Mr Cadogan has met Plaman representatives but said it would be inappropriate for him to discuss what those meetings were about at this stage.

Otago Regional Council regulatory general manager Peter Winder said regional council chief executive Sarah Gardener had met the company's consultant twice to understand the proposal.

Staff from the consents team, including the consents manager, had also attended pre-application meetings with Plaman, which was standard procedure, particularly for large and complex applications, he said.


How democratic is this? ... that business operators can go to prominent local government figures ( just individuals) and say, ’Put in a good word for us where it matters. It will be good for economic development for your area.’ Probably invite them to a nice lunch and suck up to them too. Are the businesses going to tell the full story? Of course not. Local government should just get right out of so-called ‘economic development’. It’s a waste of ratepayers’ money and not local government core business. And decisions to favour various businesses and not others are not even made by the full elected Council, let alone the ratepayers being in on it. A few years ago, Local Government NZ did a report on local government ‘economic development’ and concluded that councils generally had no way of knowing whether the money was well-spent. How about just doing core business like drains and keeping rates down and stop trying to market the city to non-residents as if it were a commodity for sale?

If only Dave's questioning mind was as rigorous when it came to Dunedin employment. What high-paying jobs have you introduced to the region Dave? What is your record on employment growth? When did the last big company leave Dunedin? Or, is the class warfare implicit in attacking any new economic projects more important.

"In October, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull wrote a letter of support for Australian company Plaman Resources' application to the Overseas Investment Office to buy a property next to its diatomite mine at Foulden Hill, near Middlemarch".
One wonders if there was some sort of inducement for doing so.

Just being worked on to feel important can be an inducement. And business operators know it.