Denniston decision a blow for NZ

Forest & Bird says it is extremely disappointed by the Environment Court’s key decision today to grant Bathurst Resources permission to dig an open cast mine on conservation land on the Denniston Plateau. 

The court’s decision is its second interim decision on the issue.  

“This is not just bad news for us, but for New Zealand and the future of our important wildlife and places,” says Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin.

“The decision has not addressed several important aspects. After an initial assessment, we are seriously considering our legal options. We are concerned that the Court has backed away from some of the requirements it placed on Bathurst Resources in its first interim decision, without any real change to justify that shift. 

“This latest development still leaves Bathurst far from the point at which the company can start mining. Bathurst does not have permission to use the public road up to and on the plateau for its coal trucks,” Debs Martin says. 

A Department of Conservation report on an application for 92 daily truck movements expressed concerns about the risk of a collision between a truck and a vehicle driven by a visitor to the conservation land on the plateau.  

“Forest & Bird is concerned about reduced access to this very important site – and with over 20,000 visitors a year, the risk appears high,” says Debs Martin. 

“The overall outcome also still depends on the Supreme Court’s decision as to whether climate change is a relevant consideration under the RMA, and the Court of Appeal’s decision about whether to take into account the cumulative impact on the plateau of Bathurst’s proposed mine, and the nearby Sullivan Mine.

“Once again, the legal work Forest & Bird has undertaken to protect the plateau is work the Department of Conservation would have done until recently. DOC says the plateau’s hugely significant ecosystems are at a tipping point. The Denniston Plateau is public land – and in DOC’s top 50 sites for biodiversity protection on the mainland – so it is disappointing that DOC has been absent from this very critical court case.

“Our supporters and members from around the country – including the West Coast – will be deeply saddened by this latest decision. They don’t want an open cast coal mine in the middle of such a precious part of “Middle Earth,” and the battle to save it is far from over,” Debs Martin says.