Minister trips over Denniston

12 Dec 2011

Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson found herself in the news in the first week after the election after breaking her promise to give New Zealanders a say over plans for an open-cast mine on the publicly-owned Denniston Plateau.

Print and broadcast media were quick to pick up on the story, which had echoes of the uproar that followed the government’s plans last year to allow mining in Paparoa National Park and other areas protected under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.

Last year the government backed down on Schedule 4 – after up to 50,000 people marched in Auckland against the plans – and then promised that “significant applications to mine on public conservation land should be publicly notified”.

Ms Wilkinson said in a meeting in July with Forest & Bird representatives, including President Andrew Cutler and General Manager Mike Britton, that Denniston would be publicly notified, giving the public the opportunity to have its say.

But on the Monday after the election she wrote to Forest & Bird to say the access arrangement would not be publicly notified.

Conservation Advocate Nicola Vallance said the 160 hectare mine, which would be the largest open-cast coal mine on conservation land, would destroy a landscape unique in New Zealand and the world.

“It is home to a wide range of native plants and animals, including the threatened great spotted kiwi. Many of the plants and animals are found nowhere else in New Zealand.”

Australian company Bathurst Resources’ planned mine was this year granted resource consent, which Forest & Bird and others are appealing. But it also needs a concession and an access arrangement from the Minister of Conservation before the mine can go ahead.

On December 2, an e-alert was sent to members and supporters, asking them to send an e-card to Prime Minister John Key, urging him to keep his government’s promise about notifying the access arrangements.

Forest & Bird is also planning a Bioblitz on the Denniston Plateau to find out more about the rare plants and animals there.

The Bioblitz will run from March 2-4, and will be a coordinated search for life in sample plots across a broad range of the 18 different ecosystems.

Several experts will be on hand to identify species not previously known to be on the plateau.

Volunteers are being sought to join teams to help fi nd plants and animals.

People need to be fit and keen to get down to ground level to look for life among the shrubs, rocks and soil.

More information will be circulated as plans are firmed up.

For more information contact organiser Rachel Hurford at

r.hurford@forestandbird.org.nz

To send John Key an e-card go to http://tinyurl.com/8xglynb