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Goldminers and council leaders have called on the Government to open up DOC stewardship land for mining, saying it could help fill the hole in the Coast economy left by the collapse of tourism caused by Covid-19.
Tai Poutini West Coast Conservation Board chairman Keith Morfett says the Coast is fortunate to have robust agricultural and alluvial goldmining sectors.
But he says additional mining jobs would come nowhere near filling the gap left by tourism.
"There are plenty of gold mines operating already on stewardship land. We need a range of jobs especially in places like the glaciers."
In 2019, West Coast tourism employed 23% of the region's workforce -- a total of 3600 jobs, generating $276 million a year.
That was about 15% of the Coast's GDP, Dr Morfett said.
"Impacts on areas like the glacier towns ... will be close to catastrophic. Many of the businesses under threat are small family-operated firms that will struggle to survive in this new environment. The impact on hard-working Kiwi families cannot be underestimated."
On the West Coast, the Conservation Department managed about 2 million hectares of land, including Westland and Paparoa national parks, and parts of Arthur's Pass, Mount Aspiring and Kahurangi parks, and was ideally placed for a massive investment in nature-based jobs, Dr Morfett said.
"Predator control for rats, stoats, possum; browsing animal control for goats, deer and tahr, invasive weed control, catchment management are all things that will build greater resilience and sustainability.
"Working together, DOC, iwi, district and regional councils have a real opportunity to make significant change while protecting the livelihood of New Zealanders."
However Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson dismissed the idea that nature-based jobs could restore the Coast economy as "pie-in-the-sky".
"So we'd be borrowing money to cut tracks and so on ... who's going to be maintaining them? And jobs like pest control wouldn't suit everyone. Women can do anything these days, but a lot wouldn't want to do that; you don't just jump from a tourism job to shooting tahr or trapping possums."
Goldmining, on the other hand, offered opportunities that would support families and boost the economy without the need for Government borrowing.
"Our mining industry says it could create 120 jobs within six months if certain stewardship land was opened up."
Dr Morfett said there were plenty of young, fit people working in the tourism industry who could easily adapt to nature-based jobs.
"We are very good at digging things up and moving them, on the Coast and there are currently three old landfills that need moving before they turn into disasters like the one at Fox, for instance."
- Lois Williams