Overseas mining promotion threatens Northland’s natural treasures

 Forest & Bird said Friday that plans by the government and the Far North mayor to promote major mining opportunities in Northland at the world’s largest mining trade show next week are a major threat to the region’s kauri forests, wetlands and coasts.

The promotion of mining in New Zealand at the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's convention and trade show indicates the government has ignored the public backlash against its plans for mining conservation land since 2010, when up to 50,000 people marched in protest in Auckland.

“Since then, it’s been full steam ahead with aerial mineral surveys and a big increase in government officials promoting mining in New Zealand,” Forest & Bird’s North Island Conservation Manager Dr Mark Bellingham said.

“The government has bulldozed ahead with its mining plans despite a wave of public opinion in favour of protecting our most precious environments.”

Officials from the ministry’s New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals unit, and Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, who chairs the Explore Northland Minerals group, are among the New Zealand contingent attending the trade show in Toronto from March 4-7.

Mark Bellingham said there are important areas in Northland being proposed for the Kauri National Park which were being targeted for mining.  These areas are not yet protected under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act, which lists areas where mining is forbidden.

“We are concerned that the Far North District Council and Northland Regional Council cannot deal with pollution from dairy farming, let alone pollution from mining companies.”

Open-cast hard rock mining would have an environmental impact well beyond the immediate mine site and would threaten rivers such as the Wairoa, which flows into Kaipara Harbour, the largest harbour in New Zealand.

Mark Bellingham added he was concerned that the government’s aerial mineral survey report was being promoted to foreign mining interests before being revealed to landowners or the public. The surveys, costing millions of dollars of public money, had covered most of the land between Warkworth and Cape Reinga as well as areas in the north and west of the South Island.