Mining protest digs in at Parliament

"You say mine, we say ours" protesters chanted today as they urged the Government to drop proposals to open protected land up for mining.

About 500 people gathered outside Parliament for the "Too Precious to Mine Rally" in Wellington....
About 500 people gathered outside Parliament for the "Too Precious to Mine Rally" in Wellington. Photo by NZPA.
About 500 gathered in front of Parliament, some dressed as kiwis and other birds while others were painted blue like the native people in the Avatar movie. One man wore a pink frock and wig.

Pledges were make to lie in front of diggers and equipment as posters stating "surgical mining a bit like scientific whaling" and "the environment is the economy stupid" were held high at the midday Too Precious to Mine rally organised by Forest and Bird.

The protest was in response to the Government's moves to remove areas of conservation land from the protection of schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act.

The schedule covers the most pristine and valuable conservation land and protects it from mining. The proposals, released last week, are for areas of Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel and Paparoa National Park to be released so they can be prospected for valuable minerals.

Wellington web designer Alison Green, 47, held up a poster saying: "John Key: Why didn't you mention mining during the election campaign?"

She said conservation land needed to be protected and claims for economic benefits from mining it were based on shonky figures and not research.

The only way to ascertain what was under the ground was to dig it up destroying its conservation value in the process, Ms Green said.

"It's damaging to our clean green brand which is somewhat tarnished anyway... What we have in New Zealand is so precious its worth more than any gold you could pull out of the ground and always will be."

Prime Minister John Key has described reaction to the proposals as hysterical, which prompted this opening comment from a Green co-leader: "My name is Metiria Turei and I am hysterical."

Ms Turei criticised Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson for her outrage over the killing of native pidgeons while allowing habitats for native species to be destroyed.

Coromandel Watchdog co-chair Moira Coatsworth said she was frustrated that the group had to return to activism against mining after in recent years focusing on work such as kiwi breeding.

Another speaker, Diana Shand, from International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the ability to remove land from schedule four showed New Zealand protection systems did not have integrity and the move had caused international concern.

Labour leader Phil Goff said that back in power a Labour government would return the areas protected status.

Ms Wilkinson met a delegation of the protesters and said they had a "good discussion".

She urged people to have their say by commenting on the discussion document.





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