Mine protesters leave Pugh ‘dumbfounded’

West Coast-Tasman MP Maureen Pugh
West Coast-Tasman MP Maureen Pugh
West Coast-Tasman MP Maureen Pugh says people's access to MPs could be curtailed in future, after she was mobbed and pushed earlier this week in Takaka.

During an anti-mining protest, someone was banging on her car window and held up their toddler, accusing Mrs Pugh of poisoning children.

A staff member was so concerned she activated the emergency alarm on her phone, alerting Parliamentary Security.

Mrs Pugh had been meeting the Golden Bay Community Board, which was discussing Siren Gold's proposed mine in the Tākaka Valley and the fast-track Bill.

As she was about to leave for another engagement, a staff member came in to say people were outside picketing, and asked if she wanted to go out the back door. Mrs Pugh declined, saying she represented the protesters too.

She said she started walking out and waved and said "hello", thanking the protesters for coming out. She estimated about 80-100 were present.

As she walked down the street, protesters surrounded her and her staff member and had cameras in her face.

"They seemed very well prepared for media exposure," Mrs Pugh told the Greymouth Star.

At this point, a man walked into her, pushing a sign into her chest. As she and her staff member got in their car, the protesters "mobbed it" so she could not leave the carpark.

"One guy banged on the window next to my staffer. He shouted ‘you're killing our children’ while holding his young child up to the car window."

Mrs Pugh said he was apparently referencing arsenic from the proposed mine.

However, Mrs Pugh pointed out she was not on the select committee hearing the fast-track Bill, and she had not put forward the Takaka mine for fast-tracking.

"I was dumbfounded by the response."

She laid a complaint with police but chose the lesser option of a warning rather than assault charges.

Mrs Pugh has been advocating for a "mature, intelligent conversation about mining".

However, earlier this week Climate Change Minister Simon Watts' speech at a conference called by the Environmental Defence Society was interrupted by a group of protesters.

As for the assault, she noted that during the election campaign last year some Labour MPs had been targeted. The risk was that MPs' security would be tightened up, and people would lose exposure to events.

"That would be a real blow to democracy. We pride ourselves on being accessible to the public."

Half of Mrs Pugh's electorate is on the West Coast, where mining is common and has strong support. Takaka has been mined in past decades, but it does not have current experience of it. — Greymouth Star