Forest & Bird says it’s unacceptable that gold prospecting is taking place on conservation land that is habitat for highly endangered Archey’s frogs.
“The Archey’s frog is one of the most critically endangered frogs in the world,” says Forest & Bird’s Chief Conservation Adviser Kevin Hackwell. “That’s why it’s near the top of the Government’s proposed threatened species list.”
“So why is the Department of Conservation allowing drilling in their habitat?”
Oceana Gold are drilling in the Parakiwai valley in Coromandel Forest Park, a popular walking area for locals and visitors. Ten areas have been stripped of their forest and closed to public access while the prospecting takes place.
An ecological survey carried out prior to prospecting shows that there are good numbers of Archey’s frogs in the permit area.
“It’s clearly good habitat for them,” says Mr Hackwell.
Oceana have to comply with certain conditions designed to mitigate the impact on frogs, but a frog expert, Professor Ben Bell, considers that even with the best mitigation measures in place there will still be an impact on the frog population.
“Archey’s are tiny and notoriously hard to spot. There’s a risk to them from simply having mining contractors walking around off track in their habitat,” says Mr Hackwell.
“It’s simply not good enough. The risk to such a rare and precious species is too great.”
Archey’s frogs are highly unusual – they live in the forest, they don’t leap, and they make only occasional chirping sounds. Reproduction takes place on land and the tadpoles develop fully within the eggs. Upon hatching, tailed froglets crawl onto the male's back and are carried around for several weeks where they complete their transition.
Once more widespread, they can now only be found naturally in two places in the country – one being the high altitude forests of Coromandel.
Forest & Bird staff who visited the Parakiwai valley in July witnessed large areas of bush - including regenerating kauri - which had been cleared for drilling and accommodation sites.
“This is a beautiful valley and a pristine river. Even underground mining would place the river at risk of sediment, subsidence, disruptions to groundwater, and of course the toxic contamination which is a hallmark of goldmining in the Coromandel,” says Mr Hackwell.
“This Government has gone to great lengths to make it easier to mine on conservation land. These are special places where our threatened species should be left in peace.”
- Archey’s frogs are in the top 50 notable threatened species in the Government’s draft Threatened Species Strategy: http://www.doc.govt.nz/threatened-species-strategy