National U-turn - no mining on conservation land

Monday 19 Jul 2010 5:58 p.m.

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By Patrick Gower

The decision has been made, the picks are poised, but where they will strike is so sensitive an issue, the Government is still keeping it secret.

But 3 News is about to blow that secret wide open.

Officially, only Cabinet is in on it and the thousands of people who have either marched in protest or put in formal submissions against extending mining to previously protected land – are not.

The message from John Key for them today – you will be told only after National Party MPs get the details at a meeting tomorrow morning.

But sources close to 3 News say there will be a complete back down; there will be no mining on Great Barrier Island, no mining on the Coromandel and no mining in Paparoa National Park on the West Coast.

This u-turn will go so far that there will be no mining in National Parks now or in the future – there will be a legislative change that means any land that becomes a National Park will also go into what is known as Schedule 4 and be protected from mining.

They said 7,000 hectares could be mined, it will actually be none.

The Prime Minister was not giving any of this away today, although he did give a hint, when asked if he had taken any notice of all the opposition.

Mr Key is saying ‘wait until tomorrow’ – that is because he is leaving this to be announced by Gerry Brownlee, the minister responsible for promoting this policy, who simply failed to sell it.

But what made the Prime Minister change his mind?

It appears National have listened to the people. Over 40,000 people marching up Queen St and thousands of submissions told just how deeply unpopular that was going to be – and Mr Key is quite happy to walk away from that.

The Government will try and put a positive spin on mining and will go ahead with surveying other areas of Crown-owned land, but National Parks and other treasured areas are safe from the diggers.

3 News

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