I am extremely concerned about the Prime Ministers statement to Parliament that the Government intends to make "significant changes to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act ... to increase economic growth and create jobs".
By definition the land covered by Schedule 4 is of the highest conservation values and includes National Parks - "...areas of New Zealand that contain scenery of such distinctive quality, ecological systems, or natural features so beautiful, unique, or scientifically important that their preservation is in the national interest." National Parks Act (1980).
The Prime Minister then stated incorrectly that only 40 square km of land is mined in NZ. That figure is straight from the website of the Minerals Association. The correct figure is over 200 square km (Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment), not including the land area for access requirements in the form of roads. The fact that the Prime Minister has used an incorrect figure from an association representing private sector mining companies, rather than his own Commissioner, is telling.
The economic benefit of mining is a one off with an on-going cost of the environmental clean up. Contrary to the PM's assertion that it is surgical mining analogous to keyhole surgery, the vast majority of mining is not of this nature and the huge issue is pollution of waterways in particular. Tourism and the intrinsic worth are sustainable; extractive mining is not.
Pristine wilderness areas such as those covered by Schedule 4 can only diminish as the world demands more resources. New Zealand is one of the few countries with legislation permitting mining to occur in National Parks. This has tarnished our reputation amongst international conservation organisations. Indeed, Australia, our closest neighbour held up as wealthy because of its mineral resources, bans mining in National Parks.
As Minister of Conservation, what are you doing to up hold the National Parks Act, that " [National Parks] shall be preserved as far as possible in their natural state...in perpetuity for their intrinsic worth"?
Our company worked on the film Avatar which was mostly filmed at Peter Jackson's studios in Wellington. Avatar is proving to be one of the most popular and profitable films in history connecting with mass audiences all over the world. One of the keys messages in Avatar, as the bulldozers destroyed the pristine wilderness of Pandora to mine the precious mineral "Unobtainium", was -"can't you see - the real wealth doesn't lie underground, but above the ground - it is all around you (in the eco-system)."
It appears that the National Government is ignoring this message.
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Johnny will no doubt also go on the list of people that John Key's office will advise to expect a considered answer from the hon Ann Tolley, the part-Minister of Education.