The future of a West Coast public reserve will be debated at a High Court hearing in Christchurch tomorrow. Stevenson Mining Limited want access to the Buller District Council’s Water Conservation Reserve for the proposed Te Kuha opencast coal mine, near Westport.
“What’s proposed is an opencast mine in an outstanding natural landscape, within view of the iconic lower Buller Gorge and home to threatened species such as kiwi,” says Ms Miller. “We will be arguing that the Reserves Act requires the protection of such precious places.”
Photos of the area and the species found there can be downloaded here.
“We’re increasingly concerned about this trend of using public land for private development,” says Forest & Bird Regional Manager Jen Miller. “Ultimately that’s what we’re seeing here.
“The case also has implications beyond this particular place. A considerable amount of reserve land is held by councils around the country. If the Crown Minerals Act prevails, it becomes easier for mining companies to gain access to other local purpose reserves,” says Ms Miller.
The Buller District Council initially granted access to the company, but revoked that decision when Forest & Bird sought to challenge it in court. Now Stevenson Mining Limited is seeking a declaration that the Crown Minerals Act prevails over the Reserves Act in decisions about reserve land. Forest & Bird believes that the scenic, natural and biological features of the reserve should be protected, except where the use is for its primary purpose, the Westport water supply.
Stevenson Mining Limited is also awaiting decisions on resource consent applications and for access to 12 hectares of conservation land needed for the mine. Altogether the mine would affect around 150 hectares of a pristine natural landscape.