More protest action planned

The Taramakau Bridge opened last Sunday. Photo: ODT
The Taramakau Bridge opened last Sunday. Photo: ODT
More protest action is planned following the opening of the Taramakau Bridge, as West Coast leaders plan how to build on the momentum.

"It's just the beginning," Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said today, after 5000 people turned out in solidarity on Sunday.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage also spoke today about her secret visit to two West Coast mine sites last week, and urged people to participate in the upcoming consultation.

Go West Coast spokesman Peter O'Sullivan said following on from the bridge rally they were being asked what next?

"We've not yet decided, but we need to carry on the campaign.

"We are planning on community meetings in Haast, Westport, Reefton ... in order to tell people what the challenge is we are facing."

Other things were in the pipeline and being confirmed.

Coasters already understood how the mining ban would impact on the economy and community, Mr O'Sullivan said.

The message now was that Coasters had been mining sustainably for 150 years, and that farming and sphagnum moss was also sustainable.

Mayor Smith said one thing to come out of the Taramakau protest was that other regions affected by the mining ban wanted to join.

"Discussions have started."

Meanwhile, Ms Sage visited a coalmine at Giles Creek and an alluvial goldmine at Card Creek to gather information.

Speaking to the Greymouth Star today, she said while the Coast economy was diversifying, mining "does contribute a significant number of jobs, particularly alluvial".

She said she already knew the significance of alluvial gold. The impact of alluvial was different from hard rock, or open-cast coalmining.

She suggested Mr Smith and Go West Coast rally organiser Peter Haddock were "starting election campaigns early".

"I really welcome constructive discussion with the leaders and minerals industry. When people are shouting ... it's hard to hear what they are saying."

Asked if the submissions on the proposed mining ban would come down to a numbers game, where the West Coast could be swamped by national submissions, Ms Sage said it was about the quality of the information.

The West Coast mayors, chairs and iwi group met yesterday to discuss how to build on the momentum.

In a combined statement today they said the no new mines on conservation land proposal was made without prior discussion, consultation or warning, and without clear definition.

"If people didn't care about their future, we wouldn't have seen 5000 members of our local communities turn out in the rain, hail and sunshine of the day.

"The fact that they did, shows just how important this matter is for the future of the West Coast, their homes, their communities and their people."

The councils said further positive public demonstrations would be required.

- By Laura Mills

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