Plea to keep mine sites non-'historic'

Gold-miner Bob Kilgour. Photo by Colin Williscroft.
Gold-miner Bob Kilgour. Photo by Colin Williscroft.
An Alexandra gold-miner is urging the Central Otago District Council to ignore a request by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) to list in its district plan mining sites in the Lower Nevis Valley as sites of significant historic merit.

Bob Kilgour, of Dunstan Mining, said adding the 27 sites, about 32km from Cromwell, to the district plan would add another bureaucratic hurdle that entrepreneurs like himself would need to clear.

"Historic sites should only be considered under the resource consent process. Putting them in a plan just adds another layer of bureaucracy."

Mr Kilgour said it was already very difficult to gain consent to mine on Crown-owned land.

Wilkinsons elevator in Camerons Creek, Upper Nevis, in 1948, the year it closed. Bob Kilgour...
Wilkinsons elevator in Camerons Creek, Upper Nevis, in 1948, the year it closed. Bob Kilgour wants to mine the claim again. Photo by Dunstan Mining.
"In the Upper Nevis, where I have a Crown-granted mineral permit, trying to get all the necessary consents has become extremely difficult and has now gone on for some 10 years, at a cost in excess of $90,000.

"I still don't have consent to dig one prospect pit and our permit pre-dates all the layers of additional bureaucracy that have been added since our permit was granted."

NZHPT Otago/Southland area manager Owen Graham said it was the trust's usual procedure to recommend conservation and protection measures, such as listing on district plans.

"However, the decision to include places within the district plan rests with the council concerned and requires a publicly notified process."

The council is due to hear the NZHPT's submission on changes to its district plan within the next fortnight.

Earlier this month, the NZHPT put the Lower Nevis Valley on its National Register because it contained the most intact sequence of gold mining history in Otago, with the majority of sites dating from 1862 to the late 20th century, Mr Graham said.

"The New Zealand Historic Places Trust recognises the lower Nevis Valley as being nationally significant. No other gold mining location in New Zealand compares to, or is as complete as this area."

"Unfortunately, the [NZHPT's] registration process provides no protection to Category I and Category II historic places. Protection comes about when local authorities take the lead in protecting their local historic places by listing them in their district plans."

In October last year the CODC submitted against the proposal to put the Lower Nevis Valley on the NZHPT's National Register.

CODC planning and environment manager Louise van der Voort said the council was not satisfied all the land in the NZHPT proposal - more than 8000ha - justified inclusion on the register as "it is likely that much of this land has no particular value as an historic area".

Much of the Nevis Valley was already subject to an Area of Outstanding Landscape Value notation in the operative CODC district plan, she said.

"The council has notified proposed plan changes ... which identifies the Nevis Valley as an area of extreme sensitivity - the highest landscape rating.

The council considers that these plan provisions provide adequate protection for land to be included in the Lower Nevis Historic Area, especially as much of this land is likely to be of no particular value as a historic area."

Mr Kilgour said Otago had hundreds of similar sites.

"In most cases, they [historic sites] are sitting on significantly underexplored mineral deposits. With the present demand for minerals, there is an opportunity for Otago to develop these deposits."

Mr Graham said economic growth, wealth and local jobs can also be achieved through historic site tourism.

- colin.williscroft@odt.co.nz

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