'Pretty sad situation': Waihi gold mine extension slammed by watchdog

Plans to extend Waihi's gold mine has been given the green light.

Work on Martha Mine is due to begin next year, but some say people should be worried - and that gold mining in the Coromandel needs to stop.

It's been going on for centuries, but almost all the gold in the current underground mine is gone. Now it's been given the green light to keep digging into new areas under the town.

Deputy Mayor Toby Adams is counting that as a win.

"It's hugely important. If you took it out there would be a massive hole," he said. "There's a lot of businesses and a lot of people that rely on the work that comes from it."

The mine itself employs 350 people, and for them the news comes at a good time, says OceanaGold senior community advisor Kit Wilson.

"Many of our staff were thinking about 2019 and wondering how much longer we'd be here, so the fact we've got another 10 years is a huge Christmas present for them."

But not everyone is happy about it.

"It's a pretty sad situation," says Coromandel Watchdog Chair Catherine Delahunty. "The people of Waihi feel pretty powerless, those of them who opposed the mine."

Project Martha will extend mining for another 10 years. Plans include stabilising the wall of the open pit, which will allow access to the bottom of the mine. The project also includes extending the mine underneath residential properties.

"They'll be a new group who haven't had blasting yet under their homes," says Ms Delahunty. "For some of them, it creates enormous physical and mental stress."

In 2001 a tunnel collapsed, creating a giant sinkhole under someone's home.

"Everyone needs to be concerned when you're mining under home," one local told Newshub.

"If my house was there, I guess I'd be concerned about it," said another.

But the Deputy Mayor says out of the submissions, 80 percent were in favour of extending Martha Mine.

"The gold company here is not only in the community, it's part of the community."

Opponents do still have one last chance to appeal the consents as OceanaGold forges ahead with plans to start work on the new mine in the new year.