To: Hon Kiritapu Allan
Minister for Conservation
Hon Dr Megan Woods
Minister for Energy and Resources
Tēnā koe Ministers Allan and Woods,
I know we share the same values when it comes to protecting and treasuring our wild and wonderful natural landscapes and the unique plants and wildlife they are home to.
For this reason, I hope you will recognise that banning new mining projects on public conservation land is a crucial and urgent matter.
It has now been more than four years since Prime Minister Rt Hon. Jacinda Ardern promised through the Speech from the Throne that, “there will be no new mines on conservation land.”1 Yet, since this promise was made, applications for prospecting, exploration, and mining activities have been approved on 150,000 hectares of conservation land.2
Mining on Papatūānuku for gold, coal and other minerals can have devastating impacts on nature. Mining can permanently change landscapes, remove mountain tops, and crater the land. It can involve stripping the land of its forests and native vegetation, and degrading or destroying the homes of vulnerable wildlife such as the giant land snail Powelliphanta augustus in Buller, and the Archey’s frog in Coromandel - the smallest of our four native frogs, and one of the rarest and most endangered in the world.
Mining operations can pollute local waterways with sediment and heavy metals. Big mining operations have tended to be boom and bust, leaving local communities to deal with the aftermath of a sudden loss of jobs. Instead of continuing to plunder our environment, we could be encouraging more “urban mining” of electronic waste. We can create new jobs, reduce waste to landfill and protect nature by recovering precious metals such as gold from computers, mobile phones, batteries and other e-waste.
The Greens recognise that the Labour Government has chosen to prioritise the reclassification of conservation land that is stewardship land; above protecting conservation land from mining; and that this process of changing the legal status of areas of stewardship land will take some time.
However, time is running out for our precious places and wildlife, particularly in the Coromandel. Companies such as OceanaGold are preparing to expand their gold mining operations, including blasting and tunneling under precious native forests on conservation land which are home to the endangered Archey’s frog and brown kiwi.
I urge you, as Ministers for Conservation and Energy & Resources, to uphold Labour’s 2017 promise by beginning the process to amend the Crown Minerals Act 1981 and the Conservation Act 1987 to prohibit new mining projects on conservation land, including stewardship land.
The purpose of conservation land is to protect our native plants, wildlife and natural landscapes; and to preserve areas of historic and cultural significance. Yet our current laws still allow mining companies access to these places with their diggers and excavators. We have a biodiversity crisis in Aotearoa and internationally, and we need to put nature first. The protection of conservation land is also the protection of local economies and jobs, which rely on visitors and outdoor activities to sustain them.
For the sake of our precious natural places and unique native plants and wildlife; our rural communities; and our tamariki and mokopuna who deserve to inherit healthy natural landscapes and an unpolluted Aotearoa New Zealand; please uphold your promise to ban new mines on conservation land once and for all.
Ngā mihi nui,
Green MP and spokesperson for Conservation
1 Speech from the Throne, 2017: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/speech/speech-throne-2017
2 Forest & Bird, 2020: https://www.forestandbird.org.nz/resources/mining-activities-approved-150000ha-conservation-land
Photo credit: Archey's Frog (Leiopelma archeyi) by Sara Smerdon CC-BY-NC