Mayor 'dismayed' at job losses

Buller Mayor Garry Howard said he was dismayed at Bathurst's announcement that it would be shedding 29 jobs.

"Today's news that Bathurst will not be proceeding to open its Escarpment Mine on the Denniston Plateau as planned, is devastating for the company and the Buller community.

"Bathurst staff have been passionate people who have become involved in our community and we feel for them as they face this bad news."

However, Mr Howard said he understood the position the company had found itself in, and accepted that the long-term future was better served by the delay. It was still a bitter pill to swallow, he said.

Mr Howard also took a swipe at environmental groups such as Forest & Bird, which had previously launched a series of high-profile court appeals against the proposed Escarpment Mine.

The group launched appeals to the Environment Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court to prevent the mine from going ahead.

"It is simply criminal to see a well-intentioned regulatory process abused and manipulated by out-of-town extreme elements intent on frustrating legitimate and reasonable developments," said Mr Howard.

"Concession after concession has been made but these appeasements never seemed to be enough. The delays continue and the legal costs have burned cash that should have been invested in infrastructure."

Today the district had been left with the consequences of those appeals, which was job losses, he said.

Mr Howard said the local community was running out of patience with the "misrepresentation and false propaganda used by people who had no stake in the local community".

"What has happened to Bathurst must not be allowed to continue. Mining is one of this country's biggest export earners and it is the single biggest contributor to the Buller economy."

He said the Buller District Council would continue its efforts to ensure the final approvals for Escarpment were brought into being as soon as possible.

However, the local community held deep fears about the message the Bathurst "debacle" had sent to investors in the New Zealand economy.

"We want to send a serious message to the Government. The existing process is not fit for purpose."

There needed to be areas in New Zealand identified and designated to allow mining as a permitted activity, provided the appropriate environmental safeguards were in place. "If that requires new legislation so be it," said Mr Howard.

- By Ben Aulakh and Kim Fulton of The Westport News

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