Forest & Bird welcomes Government moves to ban mines on public conservation land, but says that action needs to be urgent.
The intended ban was announced at the opening of Parliament last year, but since then the Department of Conservation has continued granting mining companies permission to dig up conservation land, destroying habitat for threatened plants and animals.
Photos of current mines on conservation land, and species threatened by mining, can be found here.
“We were delighted when the Government announced that it was ending mining on conservation land. But six months down the track we’re still losing New Zealand’s native species to giant holes in the ground,” says Forest & Bird CEO Kevin Hague. “While we welcome consultation we’d warn the Government against a slow process.
“It’s long been a contradiction in New Zealand that we allow destructive mining in our most precious places,” adds Mr Hague. “No other activity is allowed to destroy conservation land in this way, and it’s time we stopped giving the mining industry special treatment.”
Forest & Bird has been campaigning for more than decade to save unique and ecologically rich landscapes such as the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau, where experts have warned that more mining will lead to extinctions. A new proposed opencast coal mine at Te Kuha includes conservation land which is home to numerous threatened species, including roroa (great spotted kiwi).
In the Coromandel, mining companies have been prospecting for gold on conservation land that includes habitat of the critically endangered Archey’s frog.
“The bottom line is that conservation land is for protecting our biodiversity, keeping our waterways clean and showcasing our wonderful wild landscapes,” says Mr Hague.
“Mines contaminate water, drive endangered species to extinction, and lay waste to the land – in many cases leaving the public of New Zealand to bear the cost after mining companies have left.
The Tui Mine in the Waikato still leaches heavy metals, despite a clean up which cost the public more than $20 million.
“New Zealand needs a 21st century economy, where prosperity goes hand in hand with protecting the environment,” says Mr Hague.