Following weeks of protests, media coverage, and the joint publication of an open letter to the Prime Minister, New Zealand’s largest environmental NGOs will be taking their call to stop new mines on public conservation land direct to the Labour Party, at their AGM this Sunday 6 November.
The organisations are leading the call for the Government to honour their promise to stop new mines on conservation land, by supporting the Crown Minerals (Prohibition of Mining) Amendment Bill.
Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki says, “This Sunday, Forest & Bird, Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki, and Greenpeace Aotearoa will be outside the Labour Party AGM, calling on the Prime Minister and her Labour colleagues to keep their promise and protect publicly owned conservation land, forests, and wildlife from any new mining activity."
Sunday’s event will be the latest in a series of protests around the country, with three already staged on conservation land under threat from mining activity.
Ms Toki says, “In 2010, 40,000 people marched down Queen Street, demanding that conservation land be protected from mining. Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, was among them, carrying a Labour Party placard that read ‘Ours. Not Mines’.
“In 2017, Prime Minister Ardern promised through the Speech from the Throne that there would be no new mines on conservation land. Today, that promise remains unfulfilled.
But with the Green Party's Crown Minerals (Prohibition of Mining) Amendment Bill on the table, Prime Minister Ardern and her cabinet colleagues have an opportunity to show that they’re serious about climate change, and to deliver on this generation’s 'nuclear-free moment'. If they are serious, they must support this Bill,” says Ms Toki.
A total of 78 mining access arrangements on conservation land have been granted since the PM made her 2017 promise, and exploration and prospecting permits covering over 150,000 ha of conservation land have also been signed off. Approved mining activities on conservation land include exploratory drilling for tungsten near Glenorchy; gold exploration in the Coromandel; and permits granted across Northland, Rotorua and the West Coast to a billionaire Australian mining magnate.
Chairperson of local group Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki, Catherine Delahunty, says, "The promise to protect conservation land must be honoured so that we can save ancient species like the Archey's frog, and protect forests for future generations.
"The Government promised to act on behalf of the forests, mountains and communities, not the greedy multinationals, so let’s see them stand on the right side of history. We are tired of excuses and delay tactics and we know communities strongly support protecting forests, so what is Labour waiting for?"
Numerous new coal mines are proposed for conservation land too, including the Te Kuha Mine, which Forest & Bird has been battling in court for years; a new resource consent application for a coal mine in indigenous forest near Reefton that would continue until 2050; and planned widespread mining on the biodiversity hotspot of the Denniston Plateau.
Greenpeace Aotearoa Senior Campaigner, Steve Abel, says, "Given that we are in a climate and biodiversity crisis, coal mining shouldn't happen anywhere, but especially not on conservation land.
"No government should permit the digging up of the most polluting fossil fuel – coal – in the era of climate change. Fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. To mine for them on conservation land is a double insult to nature.
"Greenpeace calls on the government to support MP Eugenie Sage's bill to stop mining on conservation land.”
Ms Toki says, “Twelve years ago New Zealand got behind the March Against Mining. Now, it is time to see an end to mines on our shared conservation estate. Our organisations will campaign to save conservation land from mining until we succeed.”