Denniston: Environment Court hearing comes to an end

20 Dec 2012

The long running Environment Court hearing to save the Denniston Plateau has come to an end. The hearing took 19 hearing days, over almost two months.

The court heard from dozens of witnesses across the various fields, including experts in invertebrates, birds, snails, lizards, wetlands, economics, social impacts, rehabilitation and offsets.

We argued the plateau’s conservation values are too high to be destroyed. We argued that plans to put the soil back after mining and replant the surface will not restore what is lost. We argued the economic benefits were overstated and the mine would bring some negative impacts to the community’s wellbeing.

During the hearing, our case was buoyed by news of the discovery of a new species of cave weta found on the plateau. Massey University scientist Steve Trewick discovered the unusually-marked weta, informally named “Denniston white-faced weta”.

Further good news came when the West Coast Conservation Board announced it had sent a letter to the New Zealand Conservation Authority recommending Denniston Plateau be protected as a reserve, with a mind of putting it into Schedule 4 land.

After the hearing, Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin expressed a heartfelt thanks to everyone who showed has supported our campaign over the past year.

“Once again, conservationists across New Zealand have united to draw the line. Open-cast coal mining on such an ecologically important area is outrageous, even without considering the effects of climate change.

“The support from you all has been incredible. People have offered their skills in many areas, from ecological expertise to play-writing, from art exhibitions to street stalls. I am truly humbled. But one of my greatest thanks must go to Rod Morris, who has been untiring in travelling the country telling the story of Denniston’s hidden treasures. ”

A decision on the Court case isn’t likely until the second quarter of next year, and the Department of Conservation is yet to announce whether it will grant permission for the mine to go ahead.

In the meantime, we’ll ramp up other areas of our campaign to get politicians and the public aware of what they could lose if the coal mine goes ahead. Debs issues a challenge to our supporters: “Over summer, think of one thing you can do to help save Denniston, then do it!”


December 2012