Forest & Bird members have gathered this morning at Mt Richmond Forest Park between Nelson and Blenheim, the third stop on a national rally for conservation land under threat of being mined for coal, gold, and other minerals.
Forest & Bird is calling for the Labour Government to fulfil its 2017 promise to end mining on public conservation land, and protect the forests, mountains, and wetlands that New Zealanders love.
Standing next to ancient native trees and the pristine Wakamarina River, within a mining permit zone, the group unfurled a replica of the iconic banner from the 2010 March Against Mining.
Drone footage and stills of the event are available here
Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Conservation Manager Scott Burnett said “Forest & Bird members are proudly carrying this banner as a reminder of the 40,000 people – including Jacinda Ardern – who marched to protect our public forests and mountains from destructive mining.
“Mt Richmond Forest Park belongs to all New Zealanders, and is home to incredible native species including the pekapeka-tou-roa long-tailed bat. Like all public conservation land, this forest is for nature and our future, not for mining.”
Despite the Prime Minister's promise in 2017 that there would be 'No new mines on conservation land', 78 mining arrangements on conservation land have since been granted, with more exploration and prospecting permits covering over 150,000 ha of conservation land.
This area includes a 500 km2 gold prospecting permit overlapping with Mt Richmond Forest Park provided to an Australian mining company.
Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki said “In 2017 Prime Minister Ardern promised through the Speech from the Throne that the Government would end new mining on conservation land.
“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 – Ministers Woods, Parker, and Williams – have the opportunity to show they’re serious about climate change and to deliver on this generation’s “nuclear-free moment”. If they are, they must support this bill.”
Since 2017, approved mining activities on conservation land include exploratory drilling for tungsten near Glenorchy; gold exploration in the Coromandel; and permits granted across Northland, Rotorua, Nelson-Marlborough, and the West Coast.
Numerous new coal mines are proposed for conservation land, 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.
Ms Toki says “Twelve years on from the March Against Mining, when New Zealand got behind this banner, it’s time to see an end to mines on our shared conservation estate. Our mountains, forests, wetlands and rivers are for our biodiversity, our climate, and our future, not for mining.”
“Forest & Bird and New Zealand’s environmental NGOs will campaign to protect conservation land from mining until we succeed.”