Fiordland listing a 'disgrace'

Metiria Turei
Metiria Turei
A paper revealing the Government is reviewing the possibility of oil exploration in Fiordland is a "national disgrace", Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says.

The paper, by the Ministry of Economic Development and the Department of Conservation and obtained under the Official Information Act, proposed a review of protected Doc areas with "significant mineral potential".

The areas listed for review in the paper included the Coromandel Peninsula (precious metals), Kahurangi National Park (precious and base metals), eastern Paparoa (coal) and Waitutu (petroleum).

Waitutu is located in the southwest corner of Fiordland National Park.

"Considering mining in Fiordland is a national disgrace," Mrs Turei, of Dunedin, said.

While the Government had signalled it was interested only in "low-value areas", the report showed "they are keen to mine our most precious parks".

The paper, dated July 22, foreshadowed a speech made by Energy and Resources minister Gerry Brownlee at a mining conference in Queenstown a month later.

In his speech, Mr Brownlee outlined plans for a strategic mineral stocktake of conservation land.

The stocktake began last month.

Mr Brownlee yesterday dismissed claims the Government was considering granting oil exploration in Fiordland National Park as "hysterical".

"We are being very open."

Asked by the Otago Daily Times if he would rule out mining on conservation land in the future, Mr Brownlee said the situation was a "catch-22".

"I just can't for the life of me believe the Government will drill for oil down there. We want to find out what is there."

Southland Mayor Frana Cardno was unequivocal when asked if drilling should be allowed in Fiordland.

"No. Definitely not," she said.

"There are plenty of other areas that can be explored, but not there."

Mrs Cardno said the park was declared a World Heritage Area in 1986, and was a major tourist drawcard.

A report on the value of Fiordland National Park estimated it contributed more than $220 million a year to the New Zealand economy.

New Zealand-based exploration company L&M Petroleum has an interest in the Waitutu area, with an offshore/onshore permit to explore 2980sq km in the region.

Mrs Turei said Conservation Minister Tim Groser would not rule out the possibility of the stocktake including popular tourist destination Milford Sound.

The review of conservation land is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Fiordland facts
- The list of public conservation areas where mining access is restricted is contained under Schedule Four of the Crown Mineral Act 1991. Almost all national park land is listed under schedule four.

- Waitutu is part of the Fiordland National Park and is home to native forest and endangered birds, such as the kaka and mohua.

- Hector's dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, little blue and Fiordland crested penguins, and occasionally whales can be seen around the coast.

- The area is also home to the Hump Ridge Track, and the world's largest surviving wooden viaduct, the Percy Burn viaduct.

Source: Department of Conservation


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