Impact on iwi uncertain

Questions remain about the cultural impact a potential gold-mining operation may have, following a two-day hearing in Millers Flat this week.

Hawkeswood Mining Ltd is seeking consent to establish and operate an alluvial gold mine in a rural resource area at Millers Flat, near Roxburgh.

Commissioners Ros Day-Cleavin, Louise Taylor (chairwoman) and Craig Welsh reserved their decision yesterday.

The commissioners heard evidence from expert witnesses, submitters and ORC and CODC planners.

In separate Section 42a reports released before the hearing, Otago Regional Council planner Danielle Ter Huurne and Central Otago District Council planner Olivia Stirling both recommended the mining consent be declined.

Ms Ter Huurne’s report said while the adverse effects on the physical environment could be appropriately managed, there was insufficient information from applicants to assess the potential effects on the "metaphysical" importance of the river to iwi.

Both planners’ reports said the company’s application did not properly address the cultural significance of the site and wider area to Ngāi Tahu, which is referred to as Kāi Tahu in southern parts of the South Island.

Yesterday, Ms Ter Huurne said while she was satisfied adverse ecological effects of the mine could be managed, there was still not enough information to assess cultural impacts.

"It’s the metaphysical effects and the mauri [life force] which are still of concern to Kā Rūnaka [Otago representatives].

"I feel there isn’t enough information," Ms Ter Huurne said.

At the closing of the hearing yesterday, Ms Stirling said while the applicants had addressed some of her concerns, questions still remained.

"I consider that the main issues in contention remain to be cultural, heritage and potentially noise effects."

Ms Taylor asked the applicants to provide an updated set of conditions for mine operation, based on discussions during the hearings, which the commissioners could review before making their final decisions, due early in July.