Government to make it easier to set up, expand coal mines despite climate targets

A big shake-up for the coal industry is on the cards, with the Government announcing plans to make it easier to get resource consents for the setting up or expansion of mines.   

The Coalition said it will also scrap the no-mine-expansion deadline of 2030 set up by the previous Government.   

"It's correcting the fact that the last Government created the perverse outcome of cancelling the exportation of coal in the future and it made it virtually impossible for coal miners to maintain their licences, and continue what's a legitimate industry," Resources Minister Shane Jones told AM on Tuesday. "It's taking care of a bit of green overreach that happened under the last Government."  

The burning of coal stands out as the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change. Transitioning countries away from coal is deemed crucial in meeting worldwide climate objectives.  

Under the previous Government, New Zealand passed laws requiring Aotearoa to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.  

Jenny Campbell, spokesperson for Coal Action Network Aotearoa, slammed the Government's plan.

"Relaxing rules for new coal mines in the face of increasing climate impacts is unlikely to be something New Zealanders will throw their weight behind," she said. "People across the country are still recovering from flood disasters: some from more than a year ago and some just last week; farmers are suffering from a crippling drought and crying out for rain."

But Jones said he was a "pro-industry politician".  

"I'm here to boost our exports, ensuring that coal or gold or any other minerals happens within a legitimate framework and environmental effects are taken care of but, down the West Coast, they told me, 'Jonesy... we'll take coal before dole anytime of the day.'  

"Obviously, we're importing coal as we speak from Indonesia to keep the lights on in New Zealand and it's not an ideal outcome... We have clean coal in New Zealand; we can manage and mine it in a climate-smart way, and it's very, very valuable as an export.  

Shane Jones.
Shane Jones. Photo credit: AM

"It is a legitimate part of our economy; it keeps people employed, it boosts our exports and we're all about export-led recovery - and our Prime Minister wants to double exports over the next 10 years."  

The Government will introduce the changes via the Resource Management Amendment Bill, expected to be brought to Parliament next month and passed into law later this year.  

"Between this and the fast-track Bill, this Government is showing it's fast becoming an environmental vandal and climate criminal," Campbell said.