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In what amounts to political sabotage, officials from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals are opening new areas to mining prospecting across vast swathes of public conservation land – in spite of the the Government pledge that "there will be no new mines on conservation land" in the Speech from the Throne late last year.

Dun Mountain and the Red Hills are a stunning, special part of Mt Richmond Forest Park,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague. “The unusual geology creates a rich red in the rocks, and very specialised habitats for plants like giant forget-me-nots, geraniums, as well as stunted southern rata. Over a dozen threatened species flourish in this seemingly stark landscape and thousands of visitors enjoy the diversity as they walk this section of national Te Araroa Trail.

“This is not an area that should ever be opened to mining.”

Photos and a map of the areas opened up for prospecting are available here.

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, part of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, recently reopened more than 30,000km2 in the Nelson/Marlborough and Otago regions to prospecting permits, after a three year closure to assess the potential for mining minerals. The Government begins consultation on how to fulfill the pledge to protect all public conservation land from mining in September.

“It beggars belief to deliberately undo the closure just before consultation is planned on how to protect these areas from mining.  The Government has already announced no new mines on conservation land.” says Mr Hague.

The Nelson/Marlborough areas released for prospecting include areas within Mt Richmond Forest Park, Victoria Forest Park, and numerous other rich biodiverse areas that are classified as stewardship land – like Big Bush, and the Howard Conservation Area where kaka, kea and kiwi now thrive. It even includes parts of both Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes national parks – areas that should be immediately excluded as they are protected from mining, something vigorously fought for in the 2010 mining marches. 

The Otago areas include the Rock and Pillar Conservation Area, as well as numerous other pieces of stewardship land which were previously pastoral leases – where the public has paid to protect the land. The Piata Scenic Reserve was recently purchased by the Department of Conseration to protect bog pine. Other areas include protection for Otago skinks, the Oteake Conservation Park, and Te Papanui Conservation Park.

“Having 40,000 people march down Queen Street in 2010 made it pretty clear that the public does not want mining on conservation land," says Mr Hague.

“New Zealanders are right to feel that way; nature is clearly in crisis. To even stand a chance of protecting our unique plants and animals we need our publicly-owned conservation land to be used for conservation, not digging huge holes in the ground. Mining should occur outside of the conservation estate."

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