Maureen Pugh allegedly assaulted during protest

West Coast - Tasman MP Maureen Pugh (file picture). Photo: VNP / Phil Smith
West Coast - Tasman MP Maureen Pugh (file picture). Photo: VNP / Phil Smith
By Samantha Gee of RNZ

An altercation between an anti-mining protester and West Coast - Tasman MP Maureen Pugh has been reported to police, with the politician allegedly assaulted after a meeting in Tākaka.

Pugh met with the Golden Bay Community Board on Tuesday to discuss concerns around the Fast-track Approvals Bill and a proposed gold mine in the Cobb Valley, among other issues.

Tasman District Council Golden Bay ward councillor Chris Hill said there were concerns among the community about the environmental impact of a proposed mining operation by Siren Gold in an area called Sam's Creek, in the Cobb Valley, near Tākaka and its inclusion in the fast-track process.

More than 100 people had gathered outside the meeting in protest, many holding placards. One read, "not on our watch", while another said "the faster you go, the bigger the mess" and "arsenic is hard to swallow".

Hill said residents wanted to show Pugh they thought the Fast-track approach was autocratic, as it was "inconceivable" to many that legislation could be introduced that trumped the Resource Management Act and water conservation orders.

"Most people were very peaceful, they were calling out what they were thinking but one person particularly was a bit out of control."

The man got right up in Pugh's face and pushed his placard against her, she said.

Hill said she did her best to stop the man and she told him not to behave in that way.

"It is so unfortunate because people are there for a really legitimate reason and then something like that happens, when no-one else is doing it, and that becomes the focus and it takes away from the legitimate, genuine concern.

"We've got really strong feelings about things and we have a right to express them, certainly to elected members... but it must be done with restraint and harm must not be done to others in doing it. I don't want to see people come to our community and get treated like that."

In April, Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop confirmed that Sam's Creek Gold/Siren was among the organisations that had received letters about the fast-track application process.

He described it at the time as a "courtesy form letter" that directed potential applicants to the Ministry for the Environment's online application form. It did not guarantee applicants would submit a fast-track project, or that they would receive preferential treatment.

Hill said the community wanted more detail from Australian company Siren Gold about their plans for the mine at Sam's Creek and had asked the company to meet with the board.

A National Party spokesperson said the party respected the rights of people to protest, but it should be done lawfully and respectfully and the incident in Tākaka had been reported to police.

Police said an assault had been reported in Tākaka, shortly after 3pm on Tuesday in Commercial Street.

No injuries were reported and enquiries into the incident were ongoing.