Forest & Bird appealing High Court decision on mining in reserves

Forest & Bird is appealing a High Court decision that the Crown Minerals Act trumps the Reserves Act when considering open cast mining on a publicly owned reserve.

“This decision sets a dangerous precedent. There are dozens of council reserves around the country, that the public rightly expects to be protected. But it turns out they are not protected from mining,” says Forest & Bird’s West Coast Regional Manager Jen Miller.

The court case followed Buller District Council’s decision to allow access to the Westport Water Conservation Reserve for the Te Kuha coal mine project – a decision challenged by Forest & Bird.

Last month the High Court decided that, when the Crown Minerals Act was passed in 1991, it implicitly repealed the protections of the Reserves Act for special features such as native plants and animals, and scenic values.

“We disagree with this decision. In Forest & Bird’s view, the Crown Minerals Act does not override the Council’s obligations under the Reserves Act to protect the reserve's natural features,” says Ms Miller.

“This reserve is pristine, with intact forest that is home to threatened bird, lizard and plant species including the great spotted kiwi, the South Island fernbird and the West Coast green gecko."

“It’s important that this forest and the wildlife that lives there is protected. We don’t think there should an exemption for coal mining,” says Ms Miller.

The case will be held in the Court of Appeal.

In a separate court process, Forest & Bird is appealing the granting of resource consents for the Te Kuha mine to the Environment Court. This appeal will be heard in July.

Stevenson Mining Ltd is also awaiting a decision from the Ministers of Conservation and Energy & Resources on access to approximately 12 ha of conservation land required for the mine.