Goodbye, minister tells frogs impeding mining

Photo: RNZ
Photo: RNZ
Christmas has arrived early for West Coast miners, with the National-led government boisterously promising it will not only let them on to stewardship land, but create a fast-track for mining.

In Parliament this week, Resources Minister Shane Jones said if a frog stood in the way of a mine, it was "goodbye, Freddy".

He promised common sense, slammed "dreamy", "fairy-tale" climate goals and said power cuts would not be happening under his government’s watch.

He also indicated they would take a blowtorch to the review of stewardship land.

The coalition was going to bring "rigour and common sense to the hysteria surrounding climate change".

"Mining is coming back as well. We most certainly need those rare earth minerals," Mr Jones said.

"In those areas called the Department of Conservation estate, where it’s stewardship land, stewardship land is not Doc land, and if there is a mineral, if there is a mining opportunity and it’s impeded by a blind frog, goodbye, Freddy," he said, in reference to Oceana’s Gold bid to mine at Coromandel, where the Archey’s frog lives.

"We are going to extract the dividend from Mother Nature’s legacy on the Doc estate in those areas previously called stewardship land.

"Now, why is this important? If we do not have coal and gas continuing to contribute to our power system, we’re going to have blackouts, brownouts; we’re going to have a power system that lacks security, riddled with risk; and it’ll diminish the status of our nation as a first-class, first world country.

"This side of the House [National, Act New Zealand and New Zealand First] is not taking that risk."

Mr Jones said the government was not going to meet the 2030 "dreamy, no-more-fossil-fuel fairy tale".

They would, however, bring certainty for the providers of international capital who would help develop the New Zealand economy.

"None of us can continue to spend the way that we have been, as has been evident on the other side of the House [Labour].

"How are regions going to grow unless we give certainty to investors and hope to the people who want to continue to raise their children in these areas, go to church, play rugby, netball, support the local businesses?"

The NZ First MP said people should "stand by for the fast-track process where the authority rests with the politicians" for mining and energy.

"Now, of course, the perfidy didn’t just stop with ETS [emissions trading scheme].

"We’ve got the significant natural areas [SNAs]; we’ve got the national policy statements pertaining to biodiversity — they’re gone. They will no longer have any legal impact in our rural economy, on our farmers, on our landowners — squashing the bejesus out of people’s property rights."

Minerals West Coast manager Patrick Phelps said it was good to see a resources minister who supported mining, and a government with a receptive attitude. Mining and biodiversity could co-exist, he said.

However, with mining’s fortunes waxing and waning depending on the government of the day, he wanted to see a shift in the New Zealand consciousness.

"Mining should be valued and even celebrated."

West Coast-Tasman MP Maureen Pugh last week said miners almost had a skip in their step since the election.

She had also met with some interested mining investors.

"Everyone in the energy and resources sector is more optimistic."

Greymouth gold miner Allan Birchfield was encouraged.

"The Coast stands to boom really if we can get the land opened up. We’ve millions of dollars worth of minerals here.

"We’ve got to get our young people back from Australia. The future of the area depends on the young people — we need to keep them here."