Shane Jones gone 'full Trump', declared 'war on nature' with mining comments, conservation group says

Resources Minister Shane Jones has gone "full Trump" and declared "war on nature" with comments he made about mining, a conservation group says.  

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Jones, a New Zealand First MP, said that "mining is coming back".  

"We most certainly need those rare earth minerals. In those areas called the Department of Conservation (DOC) estate, where it's stewardship land, stewardship land is not DOC land, and if there is a mineral, if there is a mining opportunity and it's impeded by a blind frog, goodbye, Freddy."  

Stewardship areas are parcels of land with conservation value given to DOC in 1987 that haven't been afforded additional protections. The previous Government began a process to accelerate the reclassification of stewardship land.  

"We are going to extract the dividend from Mother Nature's legacy on the DOC estate in those areas previously called stewardship land," Jones said.  

"Now, why is this important? If we do not have coal and gas continuing to contribute to our power system, we're going to have blackouts, brownouts; we're going to have a power system that lacks security, riddled with risk; and it'll diminish the status of our nation as a first-class, First World country. This side of the House is not taking that risk."  

The minister went on to say the Government wanted a "fast-track process where the authority rests with the politicians" for the likes of aquaculture, mining, energy, and infrastructure projects. 

Catherine Delahunty, a former Green MP and spokesperson for the Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki group, said Jones had gone "full Trump" and "declared war on conservation land, biodiversity, and climate science".   

She said Jones had made "flippant and uninformed comments" and called on the Prime Minister to rein him in.   

"We are calling on the Prime Minister to take control of his Minister who represents a minor Party and make it clear that the National-led Government are not proposing widespread environmental vandalism, the undoing of many years of hard work to protect the natural world and to ensure democratic participation in decision making. Will Chris Luxon restore the Government’s reputation, or will he let Shane Jones wreak havoc?"  

Delahunty warned that there could be strong pushback if the Government "continues down this bizarre track", noting that thousands had protested in Auckland in 2010 against the National's proposal to mine on conservation land.  

Shane Jones
Shane Jones Photo credit: Newshub.

In response to Delahunty accusing him of Trumpism, Jones replied: "Catherine is shrill".  

"Catherine doesn't believe in capitalism, but she's entitled to have her view. But look, there's a lot of Kiwi whanau. There's a lot of the neffs going to Australia to dig up their country. I want them to stay in our country and get a job in a legitimate industry called mining."  

He said stewardship land is not DoC land and has "a lot of rare earth minerals and we should be finding a way, and we will be finding a way, to enable excavation to take place".   

The previous Labour Government promised in 2017 to ban mining on conservation land, but as Newshub previously reported, that policy was bogged down by a lack of consensus within the Government between Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens over its scope.   

One of the issues, the former Conservation Minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage told Newshub was how to treat stewardship land. She said stewardship land is conservation land.  

With New Zealand First out of Parliament between 2020 and earlier this year, there had been hope that the Labour Government would move quickly on the promise.   

But action was delayed by the Government trying to figure out how to deal with Ngāi Tahu's rights to mine pounamu and by its move to focus on reclassifying stewardship land.  

Asked last month about how the new Government would approach mining on conservation land, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told RNZ it would be done sensitively and balance economic and environmental interests.