Forest & Bird has won in the Supreme Court against a coal mining company trying to push through an opencast mine near Westport, in a ruling which has implications across the whole of New Zealand.
“This is absolutely wonderful news for nature, and particularly for the plants and animals threatened with extinction which live in this area,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
The proposed mine site at Te Kuha on the West Coast is home to numerous plants and animals at risk or threatened with extinction, such as roroa/great spotted kiwi, South Island fernbird, geckos, the forest ringlet butterfly and 17 plant species including native eyebright.
The full court judgement, as well as photos and video footage of the area are available here.
The vast majority of the proposed 150-hectare coal mine site is a local purpose reserve, administered under the Reserves Act by the Buller District Council for water conservation purposes.
The Supreme Court case hinged on whether the Crown Minerals Act overrides council obligations under the Reserves Act to protect natural features of that reserve. The Court unanimously dismissed the appeal, concluding the council must comply with its obligations under the Reserves Act.
“This is a pristine area – you couldn’t dig it into an opencast pit while maintaining the reserve’s natural features,” says Mr Hague.
“Even if New Zealand needed new coal mines right now, the last place you should put one is kiwi habitat in an outstanding natural landscape, within view of the iconic Buller gorge.”
“The mining company has suffered legal failure after legal failure – we’re calling on them to withdraw this ill-thought out and climate-damaging mine proposal once and for all.”
The mining company needs three sets of permissions for the mine to go ahead: resource consents; permission to mine public conservation land administered by the Department of Conservation; and permission to mine the public reserve administered by the Buller District Council.
Currently the mining company is challenging a High Court ruling which supported the Government’s decision to refuse to allow public conservation land to become part of the mine. The resource consents are awaiting an Environment Court challenge by Forest & Bird. A timeline of associated court cases is shown below.
“Today’s ruling will make reserves all over New Zealand safer from mining,” says Mr Hague.
“Councils around the country hold a considerable amount of reserve land. This makes it very clear to Councils that they cannot misuse control of that land and the Crown Minerals Act does not override protections under the Reserves Act,” says Mr Hague.
“New Zealanders love nature. We think people want to protect the pristine natural areas we have left, not prop up sunset industries such as coal mining.”
- Buller District Council gives permission for open cast mine in water conservation reserve, but withdraws that decision after challenge from Forest & Bird
- Resource Consent hearing held in Westport
- Mining company seeks High Court declaration that Crown Minerals Act trumps Reserves Act
- Jacinda Ardern announces no new mines on conservation land in Speech from the Throne
- Mining company granted resource consents
- Forest & Bird appeals resource consents to Environment Court
- Department of Conservation joins Environment Court appeal against resource consents
- High Court decides for mining company on Reserves Act, Forest & Bird appeals
- Government declines access to 12ha of conservation land for mine
- Forest & Bird wins on Reserves Act in Court of Appeal, mining company appeals
- Hearing in Supreme Court on Reserves Act
- Mining company loses in High Court, with Government decision denying access to conservation land for mine upheld – mining company appeals