11 April 2010

My submission on Schedule 4 stock-take discussion document

Here is my submission. It is quite long. I may prepare a shorter version too.

Schedule 4 stock-take
(Email: schedule4@med.govt.nz)
Ministry of Economic Development
PO Box 1473
Wellington 6140

Submission on Schedule 4 stock-take discussion document

Dear Sir/Madam,
Please accept this submission in response to your notice of 22 March 2010.

Q1 On the areas proposed for removal from Schedule 4:
Section 7 of the discussion paper sets out the areas proposed for removal from Schedule 4. Do you think these areas should be removed from Schedule 4 so that applications for exploration and mining activity can be considered on a case-by-case basis? Yes or No? And why? (Your response may be in relation to any one or more of the areas discussed. Please clearly identify the area(s) to which your response relates.)

I oppose the proposal to remove the conservation areas from Schedule 4 and therefore from protection from mining. I oppose the proposals to remove the suggested areas from Schedule 4 because:
1.Mining will harm biodiversity. It will reduce the habitats of New Zealand's endemic species, many of which are endangered, and make range contraction and species decline more likely.
2.Mining will involve removal of mature native forest which will release additional volumes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
3.Mining will increase the pollution of freshwater environments caused by acid mine drainage.
4.Mining involves significant earthworks and roading and tailings dams. These are frequently not adequately managed to prevent excess nutrient-rich sedimentation running off into streams and other natural freshwater ecosystems. This will impose further adverse cumulative effects (in conjunction with intensive agricultural run-off) on the already declining water quality in New Zealand's rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries.
5.Mining will conflict with recreational use and scenic values of the conservation areas.
6.Mining is a destructive, damaging and exploitative land use that is completely inconsistent with the statutory conservation purpose for which these conservation areas are held.
7.Allowing additional mining in conservation areas detracts from New Zealand's international image and makes our marketing of tourism and our exports appear hypocritical, especially in the eyes of our competitors and in the view of environmentally conscious consumers in the OECD countries.

The Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park
The proposal includes taking 3,000 hectares of native lowland forest near Inangahua out of north-eastern Paparua National Park to allow coal mining.
According to the Ministry of Economic Development, 83% of NZ's coal production in 2008 came from opencast mines. It appears highly likely that any new Inangahua coal mine would be opencast. Opencast mining is associated with the most severe adverse environmental effects. Mr Brownlee has stated that opencast mines cannot be ruled out in areas removed from Schedule 4.
Such coal mining is the worst possible reason to justify removing this lowland forest classified as national park from Schedule 4. James Hansen of NASA has let us all know that atmospheric science is absolutely clear that the world needs to urgently stop mining and burning coal if we are to stop the warming effect of more carbon dioxide getting in the atmosphere.
New Zealand has obligations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol to actively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. It is completely contrary to these goals to be proposing removal of protection from mining from the Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park when the prospective mineral is coal, the most carbon-emission-intensive fossil fuel.
I also oppose removal of this area because of the adverse effects on biodiversity.
o Otahu Ecological Area and Parakawai Geological Area in the Coromandel
o The other seven areas in the Coromandel Peninsula totalling 2,574 hectares
o Te Ahumata Plateau on Great Barrier Island
I oppose removal of these areas from Schedule 4 because of the adverse effects on biodiversity and native species and habitats.

Q2 On the areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4:
Section 8 of the discussion paper sets out the areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4. Do you agree with the proposal to add these areas to Schedule 4? Yes or No? And why? (Your response may be in relation to any one or more of the areas discussed. Please clearly identify the area(s) to which your response relates.)

I support the addition of the listed protected areas to Schedule 4.
I also request that all places that match the land classifications listed in Schedule 4 should be automatically added to Schedule 4 when gazetted to ensure protection from mining. In that way all new marine reserves, national parks, nature reserves, scientific reserves, wilderness areas, wildlife sanctuaries, internationally significant wetlands and any additions to these areas will be protected from mining.
I also request that all conservation areas and areas such as national reserves such as Lewis Pass; all of our World Heritage areas (Te Wahipounamu, Tongariro and the Sub-Antarctic islands), and all ecological areas are added to Schedule 4.

Q3 On the assessment of areas:
The assessment of areas covered by Schedule 4 and those proposed for addition is outlined in sections 7 and 8 of this document and Appendices 1 and 2.
(a) What are your views on the assessment of the various values (conservation, cultural, tourism and recreation, mineral, other) of the land areas discussed?
For all areas I consider that the environmental and conservation values (biodiversity, native species habitat, wildlife, cultural, recreational, amenity, scenic, carbon sequestration) outweigh the highly speculative economic values ascribed to the minerals that these areas are alleged to have.
(b) Do you have any additional information that may be important for Ministers to make their decisions?
The Ministers need to be more aware of how unacceptable their proposal is to the New Zealand ethic of conservation and recreation.

Q4 On the proposal to further investigate the mineral potential of some areas:
The Government is carrying out a research and investigation programme on the mineral potential of areas with significant mineral potential over the next nine months. Areas include the Coromandel, parts of Paparoa National Park and Rakiura National Park, and a number of non-Schedule 4 areas.
I oppose this proposal. I oppose subsidising the minerals industry with $4 million of taxpayers’ money to investigate the mineral potential in New Zealand's conservation areas. Public conservation lands, especially Schedule 4 areas such as National Parks, belong to the people of Aotearoa and for conservation of indigenous biodiversity, recreation and tourism, not mining. Conservation areas should remain protected now and for future generations.

Q4(a) Do you have any comments on the type of information that would be the most useful to mineral investors?

I suggest the most useful information for mineral investors would be anything that informs them about the importance of the conservation of New Zealand's indigenous biodiversity and the enjoyment thousands of New Zealanders get from conservation areas. I also suggest a copy of James Hansen's book on the science of anthropogenic global warming “The Storms of my Grandchildren”.

Q5 On a new contestable conservation fund:
Section 9 describes a proposed contestable conservation fund the Government proposes to establish, which would be made up of a percentage of the money the Crown receives from minerals (except petroleum) from public conservation areas.
(a) A broad objective, to enhance conservation outcomes for New Zealand, is proposed for the fund. Do you agree with the proposed objective?

I completely oppose forming this fund. Conservation of biodiversity is an important enough matter to have adequate funding without having to be “in debt” to mining within conservation areas. Conservation outcomes can be best enhanced by reversing the $50million cut (over three years) in the Department of Conservation’s budget.
This fund if established would create perverse incentives. It would have the effect of being a “moral hazard” for the Minister of Conservation which may inappropriately influence her decisions on mining access.
It would give the minerals industry excellent public relations opportunities for “greenwashing” their environmentally harmful activities. The tying of conservation funding to mining and the “greenwashing” aspect of this proposal would further undermine New Zealand's current international reputation for excellent management of biodiversity and conservation areas.
(e) Do you have any other comments that might help the Government to make decisions on a new conservation fund?
Yes, please do not proceed with this inappropriate idea.

Q6 On approval of access arrangements:
In section 6 it is proposed that the joint approval of the land-holding Minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources be required for an access arrangement on Crown land for mineral exploration or development. Do you think this is appropriate? Why or why not?

I oppose this idea because this would introduce energy, economic and mineral considerations into the Ministerial decision on granting mining access arrangements to conservation areas.
I support the status quo where the Minister of Conservation must consider the statutory land management purposes and land management plans and the potential adverse effects of access under Section 61(2)(a) to (e) of the Crown Mineral Act 1991.
The statutory land management purpose of conservation land is of course conservation: “the preservation and protection of natural and historic resources for the purpose of maintaining their intrinsic values, providing for their appreciation and recreational enjoyment by the public, and safeguarding the options of future generations.”
That purpose should be the primary consideration of the Minister of Conservation in deciding an access agreement. A Minister with a focus on energy and resource development is a completely inappropriate decision-maker for mining access to areas managed for the purpose of conservation.

Q7 On any other issues:
Do you have any further suggestions or comments on what has been said in this document?

Credibility of the 'rational' debate on 'environmentally-responsible' mining
Rod Oram has recently written on the mining issue in the Sunday Star Times of 28 March 2010 (http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/business/3512763/New-Zealand-stuck-between-rocky-riches-and-hard-truths).
I recall Mr Oram telling National Radio some months ago that he was in favour of doing a stocktake of mineral-rich conservation areas and having a reasoned debate on environmentally-responsible mining and value-added processing in NZ of the minerals. Oram says he used to think:
"We could be leaders in environmentally responsible mining, the science around it and the high-value downstream products and services flowing from it. Then we could prove that the economy and environment, treated well, can enhance each other."
However, Oram now says he has changed his mind because of the divisive and adversarial way Government Ministers have pushed the proposal and the poorly researched sound-bite analysis they have provided in support of the proposal.
For example, Oram considers that the National Party could have transparently started the debate at the 2008 election by outlining the proposal then. Instead it was deliberately vague about its mining intentions. So there is no real electoral mandate for the proposal.
Also, Oram considers the sum of $194 billion, the estimated total mineral value, is so 'back of the envelope' that it is not a rational basis for any debate on weighing up the costs, risk and benefits of additional mining. Oram considers this is because the Minister of Energy and Resources only takes advice from mining industry insiders.
Oram also thinks that claims of 'surgical' mining have not been credibly backed up by real examples. So he concludes that the assertions that environmental impacts will be minimal and tourism will not be harmed are not credible.
If you cannot convince Rod Oram that you can credibly conduct a reasoned debate on environmentally-responsible mining and value-added mineral processing, then you certainly can't convince me.

Credibility of mining licences without resource consents
On 27 October 2009 the Parliamentary Commissioner Dr Jan Wright released the report “Stockton revisited: The mine and regulatory minefield”. In that report she notes there are 111 old mining licences that operate legally without resource consents as they were issued before the commencement of the Resource Management Act 1991.
Dr Wright made a recommendation to the Government that some action was needed to ensure these 111 old mining licences are required to obtain resource consents that have up to date environmental monitoring and mitigation conditions.
As far as I am aware, the Government's mining plans do not include any response to Dr Wright's recommendation. The Government and Ministry of Economic Development appear to have ignored her report.
If the Government was genuinely concerned about ensuring that mining was conducted with environmental responsibility, the Government would have acted on Dr Wright’s recommendation. The lack of action further undermines the Government's environmental credibility in the Schedule 4 stocktake exercise.
I remain unconvinced by the assertion that mining in conservation areas can be environmentally responsible.

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