The glistering, leaking, mouldy South

Even when it comes to the Bard, things change.

William Shakespeare was of course a copious inventor of clever phrases and metaphors. But some of those words of brilliance have morphed with time.

The oft-quoted example is "All that glisters is not gold" from The Merchant of Venice. Over the years that has changed to the more easily rolled off the tongue "glitters" instead.

This was Shakespeare’s warning about being swayed too deeply by obvious beauty or wealth. When it comes to science, geologists are well aware of what is known as fool’s gold, the mineral pyrite, which can actually look even more seductively glistery than the real thing.

Talking about fools, Shakespeare also said in As You Like It: "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."

Which, totally serendipitously, brings us to the matter of Matua Jones, as he likes to be called. New Zealand First MP Shane Jones, the minister for both regional development and resources, is blustering his way around the country and making himself "one of the most pesterable politicians", as he told Newsroom, in his bid to promote mining and show the eagerly awaiting world that New Zealand is literally open for extraction.

Mr Jones has already raised the ire of this country’s conservation and environment lobby with earlier and unwise pronouncements that indigenous creatures like frogs had better not get in the way of the diggers and other mining paraphernalia which spin his wheels.

While Mr Jones is busy welcoming mining companies and prospectors to New Zealand, to show them in that hackneyed phrase that "we are open for business", it’s fair to expect there will be a significant amount of associated schmoozing.

Shane Jones officiated at the opening of Macraes' new electric shovel last month. PHOTO: STEPHEN...
Shane Jones officiated at the opening of Macraes' new electric shovel last month. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Newsroom this week uncovered Mr Jones had been to dinner on the West Coast with the deputy chairman of the coal miner Stevenson Group, Barry Bragg, along with Federation Mining vice-president Simon Delander and Bathurst Resources chief executive Richard Tacon.

The dinner was not in Mr Jones’ ministerial diary, which fed into the narrative of wining-and-dining mining kingpins and concerns that the government’s Fast-track Approvals Bill gives ministers too much power and influence, and too much access to lobbyists but not members of the public.

Mining, when carried out in a way which adheres both to its resource consents and strict environmental standards, is not a bad thing per se. Here in the South, gold has played a vital role in the region’s more recent history and provided the wealth on which Dunedin flourished.

Hearings for a new gold-mine near Millers Flat began this week. Hawkeswood Mining’s plans for an alluvial operation next to the Clutha River generated 457 submissions in support to the Central Otago District Council and only eight against. Among the arguments raised was its potential effects on the river’s mana and its mauri (life force).

Canadian mining company KO Gold, which has a five-year exploration permit throughout Central Otago, was also this week singing the coalition government’s praises as "pro-industry" and saying the region’s time has come and that New Zealand is "fast becoming one of the most attractive" gold-mining locations on the planet.

Wow. Such admiration. Those compliments could easily go to our — well, Mr Jones’ and his colleagues — heads.

Just down the road from this extractive nirvana is Balclutha. Things are a bit more tarnished there, with mould and a leaky roof threatening the continuation of the much-loved local library.

Immediate repairs are needed to staunch the leaks and ensure staff and visitors are not exposed to health risks from stagnant damp air and rot.

Further south, Invercargill’s Rugby Park is in the headlines, also for its mould and leakiness. Talks between Rugby South and the Invercargill City Council appear difficult and obfuscatory.

Both are great community assets in states of dilapidation. When you consider these against the larger backdrop of local councils struggling with money and rates rises, and a government promising lower taxes, it is perhaps true that careful, restricted, environmentally aware mining could play a part in rebuilding regional New Zealand and its decaying facilities.

It is imperative that money earned from New Zealand’s ground by big overseas companies remains here and helps rebuild the rotting libraries and dripping sporting facilities of the South.