By Duncan Garner
The Government’s plans to expand mining have been dealt a serious blow, with one of its own MPs saying digging up Great Barrier Island is the wrong thing to do.
It’s the jewel in the crown of the outer Hauraki Gulf and Great Barrier Island is now central to the Government’s mining plans.
National’s Auckland Central MP, Nikki Kaye, says her Government should not be digging up the Barrier.
“In my view it’s unique in terms of its conservation properties, both in terms of threatened species but also from an economic perspective, I think the economics of mining are different for an island.”
Ms Kaye has broken rank with National, which wants to target 705ha of gold and silver on the island – worth $4.3 billion.
Her decision to speak out received Mr Key’s approval beforehand.
“This is clearly specific to Nikki’s electorate, on that basis, I knew she was going to make the comments she made. That’s part of a discussion document – there will be lots of views out there,” he says.
On the island today it was easy to see why Ms Kaye is arguing against the Government – her electorate survival depends on it.
“To destroy and island like this, which it would do in terms of the eco-tourism we have here, is it worth it?” says island resident Murray Willis.
Mining the Barrier will not be easy. Officials have told the Government that; “mining of any mineral is a prohibited activity on Great Barrier Island, under the Auckland City Council District Plan”, and “a plan change under the RMA would be required before any future mining operation could proceed”.
One man standing in the way of the diggers is Auckland Mayor John Banks, seeking re-election.
The former National Cabinet Minister also says the island must be left alone.
“It must be left in its pristine condition. How else are we going to sell 100 percent pure New Zealand?” he says.
The Government is also looking to open up parts of the Coromandel and the Paparoa National Park in the South Island.
Mr Key says open cast mining will not be happening.
“There is no way there is going to be open cast mine on the Coromandel in the future,” he says. “We wouldn’t have a dog show of getting through the RMA.”
As for the rest of the country, Mr Key says that’s “very unlikely” as well.
Labour disagrees, despite allowing the Pike River mine to go ahead in 2008, on precious conservation land on the West Coast.
“Mining our most sensitive, most beautiful, most important recreational areas, just doesn’t make sense,” says party leader Phil Goff.
He flies to the Barrier tomorrow, while Ms Kaye is hoping her Government isn’t flying in the face of public opinion.
source: newshub archive