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A new Government mining strategy will take New Zealand backwards on climate change and drive native plants and animals to extinction, says Forest & Bird.

“This flimsy document looks less like a strategy and more like a love letter to overseas mining companies,” says Group Manager Conservation Advocacy and Communications, Richard Capie.

The draft Strategy says New Zealand should “position ourselves as a worthy example of where responsible mining happens”, but aims to scale up New Zealand’s current minerals exports, the vast majority of which come from oil, gas, and coal.

“This Government seems hell-bent on selling off New Zealand’s precious public conservation land to huge international mining conglomerates,” says Mr Capie. “No one is going to believe a minister wants responsible mining when he’s boasted he’ll drive species to extinction rather than turn down a new mine.” 

“If the Government wants to have public confidence in responsible mining, they need to dump the Fast-track Approvals Bill, commit to no new mines on public conservation land, and stop new coal mines.”

“The Minister quotes the International Energy Agency when convenient but fails to mention that the IEA has said there should be no new oil, gas or coal, full stop,” says Mr Capie. “We all know these are sunset industries – is Shane Jones trying to ride off into the sunset on the back of the dinosaur that is coal?"

The Strategy lists as its first action the Fast-track Approvals Bill, which removes key protections for native plants and animals. This Bill has faced huge public backlash because of how anti-democratic it is, giving ministers sweeping powers to approve any development, no matter how damaging.

New Zealand’s current Minerals strategy (2019-2029) has a core focus on creating a low-carbon economy; growing a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy; and ensuring that the sector takes social responsibility. It was also aimed at being consistent with moving towards no new mines on public conservation land.

Forest & Bird has carried out analysis which showed that there are plenty of high mineral potential areas outside of public conservation land. For example, 34% or 528,600ha of land modelled as having high lithium potential was not public conservation land (see notes).

“New Zealand’s outstanding natural beauty is essential to who we are, and those mountains, clean rivers, and magnificent forests are public conservation land. These are places that need to be protected, not destroyed,” says Mr Capie.

“We’re living in a climate and biodiversity crisis, in a country with the highest proportion of threatened species in the world, where all types of public conservation land are valuable and home to endangered plants and animals.”

“We need to be building a low-carbon, future-focused economy based on looking after our natural environment, not sticking our head in the sand and aspiring towards a 1970s economy.”

“This approach talks a big economic game. But the unintended consequences could actually hurt our other exports, like our $10 billion a year tourism industry – New Zealand’s second-largest exporter – which relies heavily on leveraging New Zealand’s clean green global image.”

Notes to editors: 

  • The new draft Minerals Strategy claims that public conservation areas of high value are recognised as Schedule 4 conservation land in the Crown Minerals Act 1991. In terms of biodiversity value, this is incorrect. Stewardship areas, which have the lowest level of legal protection, make up around 30% of all conservation land. In 2013, 28% of all New Zealand’s priority sites for biodiversity were on stewardship land. 

  • Forest & Bird’s analysis of high minerals potential areas shows that 34% of high lithium potential, 274,800ha or 31% of high nickel/cobalt, and 260,400ha or 21% of modelled high rare earth elements areas occurred outside of public conservation land.  

  • Pictures are available of areas and species at risk such as the pristine mountaintop of Te Kuha, and the biodiverse-rich Denniston Plateau. Forest & Bird can also provide images of protests at the announcement by Minister Jones today. 

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