26 October 2012

How to write a submission on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012

Or part two of A mining stealth bomber attack on six tenths of the conservation estate

Here is my submission.

You could also check out Forest and Bird or the Green Party for their suggestions on submissions.

Submission on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012

I oppose this bill in it's entirety.

I especially oppose:

1) changing the purpose of the CMA is to "promote prospecting for, exploration for, and mining of Crown owned minerals for the benefit of New Zealand"

I consider the present wording of the CMA to be suitable and consistent with providing an impartial and economically efficient regulatory framework for minerals. If a purpose is to be adopted, it should be 'promoting sustainable management of resources', consistent with the RMA and EEZ legislation.

2) changing the Minister's function to include "(a) to attract permit applications".

This function looks like it has been copied from an insurance salespersons job description. Attracting applications is not the role of the Minister as an impartial statutory decision-maker. It is to impartially and fairly apply the law to applications. The new role suggests that the Minister will be partial rather than impartial towards applications that he/she has "attracted". It is also economically inefficient for the Minister to be "picking winners" which is what an attracting applications role suggests. The economically most efficient approach is complete impartiality of the Minister and the Ministry towards all applications.

3) Clause 31(6) which would add an economic benefits test when Crown land access is decided by the relevant Minister to section 61(2) of the CMA.

I am very opposed to this amendment. The consequence will be to undermine the legal conservation status of the 60% of the conservation estate which is not listed in Schedule 4 of the CMA. If passed, the conservation status will be effectively voided as soon as the two Ministers will decide on the grounds of the economics benefits that mining may proceed.

4) Clause 32 which would make conservation access decisions joint decisions of the Minister of Energy and Conservation.

I am very opposed to this amendment.

The consequence will be to undermine the legal conservation status of the 60% of the conservation estate which is not listed in Schedule 4 of the CMA. If passed, the Minister of Energy is unlikely to be neutral and objective. The present Government and its Ministers are unashamedly prioritising economic development over environmental issues.

For example, Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce has deliberately breached the 'sub judice' rule in his enthusiasm to promote the cause of miner Bathurst Resources in undecided resource consent appeals for the proposed Denniston Escarpment Mine on conservation land (Steven Joyce, 25 September, 2012, 'Minister calls on Bathurst objectors to pull appeals', New Zealand Goverment Media Release http://beehive.govt.nz/release/minister-calls-bathurst-objectors-pull-appeals").

The Minister of Energy Phil Heatley suggested changing the RMA to favour Bathurst in an interview with TV3 (TV3, 28 July 2012, 'Taranaki model for oil & gas exploration – Heatley', http://www.3news.co.nz/Taranaki-model-for-oil--gas-exploration--Heatley/tabid/1356/articleID/262986/Default.aspx).

So I have no confidence that these Ministers can impartially and objectively weigh conservation and economic factors. If the two changes to mining access decisions are implemented, you might as well remove the conservation status of 60% of New Zealand's conservation areas and reclassify them as 'Crown land open for mining', for that is the Government's clear intention in respect of mining. This is completely unacceptable.

The status quo in the CMA should not be changed.

5) I am opposed to changes in how areas are added to Schedule 4 of the CMA. It should remain on the recommendation of the Minister of Conservation. Cabinet and the Minister and the Ministry of Energy and Resources should have no role.

6) I am opposed to the replacement of Schedule 4 and the transfer of it to the Conservation and other acts.

A mining stealth bomber attack on six tenths of the conservation estate

Or How to write a submission on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012 (the "CMPCB" for short)

Submissions can be made on the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill 2012 until midnight, 2 November 2012. This public service notice was brought to you by Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page.

The Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land bill sounds completely eye-wateringly BORING, doesn't it? Yet this bill, if it is passed in it's current form, will have the same effect as re-classifying some 60% of New Zealand's conservation areas from protection to exploitation. The bill is really a sneaky mining stealth attack on conservation areas, after the Government's failure with it's Schedule 4 frontal assault back in 2010.

The Schedule 4 debate in 2010 was over a Government proposal for more mining in some 8,000 hectares of conservation land. The particular conservation areas were all listed in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.

Were you surprised to find out that only some 40% of New Zealand's conservation areas have absolute protection from mining? And that protection was not because of the National Parks Act or the Conservation Act. It was through a section of the Crown Minerals Act and a schedule listing of National Parks and other areas in 'Schedule 4' of the Crown Minerals Act - the Act that provides for extraction of minerals.

In March 2010, Gerry Brownlee proposed (on behalf of the 'National Growth Agenda' and the minerals and mining industries) to remove some conservation areas from this Schedule 4. The legal status - conservation park, reserve, or national park - would not change. But the areas would then be legally open for mining access via the Minister of Conservation's approval given under the Crown Minerals Act.

Which is the (rat shit) status quo for the 60% of conservation areas managed by the Department of Conservation (including all conservation stewardship areas)

A mining company can apply at anytime to the Minister of Conservation (currently Kate Wilkinson) for mining access. The Minister cannot accept an application for access to areas listed on Schedule 4. But all other conservation areas, 60% of the total, are fair game. Ostensibly the Minister, in deciding on mining access, must only consider conservation objectives, plans, policies, effects and mitigation and "other matters" (S 61B of the CMA 1991). However, my prime example of how this works in practice is the Labour Government's Chris Carter approving the Pike River Coal Mine in 2004.

After 40,000 people marched down Queens Street in protest and 37,000 people submitted against the idea, the Government said it was backing down and no areas would be removed from Schedule 4 list.

However, the Government thinks that the 2010 Schedule 4 debate is long enough ago to re-interpret the wishes of the thousands of marchers and submitters as supporting a quicker faster streamlined and simplified easier-for-miners access to the other 60% of conservation areas. That is what the Crown Minerals Permitting and Crown Land Bill is all about.

The main way the bill makes it easier for miners is to stop having the Minister of Conservation making the mine access by decision herself. And to stop the decision being mainly on conservation grounds. Instead the bill proposes that mining access will be a joint decision of the Ministers of Energy and Conservation. And the joint decision is to be guided by a new economic benefit test, as well as the land-holding objectives.

How might this change pan out? National always say they are into striking a 'balance' between economic and environmental objectives. And the conservation objectives are still there. To that I say "Get real!"

National and their Ministers are plainly biased towards development. For example, Steven Joyce used a Government press release and a TV ONE Breakfast appearance to breach the 'sub judice' rule when he strongly took the side of miner Bathurst Resources over the Escarpment Mine consents court cases.

Alternatively, lets look and listen to the present Minister of Energy, Craig Heatley on TV3 being egged on by Rachel Smalley, Alex Tarrant John Hartevelt to again take the side of Bathurst Resources. Smalley seems to be choking up when she says "Does the Resource Management Act essentially allow environmentalists to delay delay delay something like this going forward?"

This proposal sucks so much. We charge the Minister of Conservation and the Department of Conservation with managing these areas for their conservation and protection under an act called the Conservation Act (as well as a few other acts). The whole point of conservation areas is that they are legally protected from economic development because it usually harms the native plants and animals and their habitats and landforms. They are to come first. Thats what conservation means. With mining, the native plants and animals and their habitats and landforms are completely destroyed. There is no economic activity as absolutely in conflict with the conservation of nature as mining.

So what is the point of having the majority of conservation areas legally protected for conservation purposes when that protection allows mining to be permitted on the grounds of economic benefit, as jointly assessed by the 'Minister of Mines'?

So I suggest you make a submission opposing this bill via Parliament's website

20 October 2012

Cry, cry for you

Mazzy Star and Hope Sandoval

Cry, cry for you
Just like you knew I wouldn't do
Cry, cry for you
Just like a song in the last light

Should I leave it all away
Not like the kindness that you gave
That's why it never seems the same
Behind your eyes

I stood behind when no one asked me
And took you home after the fight
I drove my car into city lights
Drove down the road that I am on

Cry, cry for you
That's what you think I want to be
Cry, cry for you
An empty heart that sees me through

Cry, cry for you
Just like you knew I wouldn't do
Cry cry for you
Just like a song in the last light

Cry, cry for you
Just like you knew I wouldn't do

18 October 2012

Brother can you spare $3.10 for a flat white or a tonne of carbon dioxide?

In which I have a rant about people begging on Lambton Quay, the fact that the spot price for a tonne of carbon dioxide is the same as for a flat white and the uselessness of the report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

Have you heard the old Tin Pan Alley song "Brother can you spare a dime?" The experience of poverty and the Depression in America summed up in a popular song. The lyrics were written by Yip Harburg, and the music by Jay Gorney in 1931. The version by Al Jolson is very well known, but I like this version by Charlie Palloy and his Orchestra.

I usually start most weekdays getting off a bus on Lambton Quay. From the bus stop I walk along to work looking forward to the first coffee of the day.

I usually note how many people are begging. There are usually a few people begging on Lambton Quay. Who says New Zealand is not in a depression? Not Paul Krugman. 'Brother can you spare a dime' is alive and well.

Except it's sad cardboard signs saying 'Homeless and need help'. Also its at least $3 to $4 for a coffee, not a dime. Not for a long time.

The other price that is less than the cost of a flat white is the spot price of carbon dioxide in New Zealand. The brokerage firm OMF reports spot prices each day at CommTrade Carbon. Guess what? The last trade of a New Zealand Unit (a tonne of carbon dioxide) was $3.10.

OMF also have a chart. It shows the collapse of the international carbon market reflected in our own plucky little battler NZ emissions trading scheme. Can any sane person look at this chart and reach any other conclusion than the NZ emissions trading scheme has completely failed?

OMF originally committed the chart sin of not starting the vertical (price) axis at $0. However, reality has intruded. As the New Zealand Unit (NZU) price has relentlessly approached $0, they keep having to move the bottom of their chart closer to zero. That would almost be a small bit of humour in a pretty sad story. If it wasn't the empirical nail in the coffin of pricing greenhouse gas emissions via a NZ emissions trading scheme.

If the $3.10/tonne NZU price is the nail in the coffin, the death notice must be the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, which today released its report Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill

That's the National Government's bill to further weaken the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme. You know, indefinitely delay the entry of agriculture, make the half-price "two-for-one" transition permanent.

If you can quickly recover your will to live after digesting 30 pages of bureaucratic and political policy denial and excuse-making, download and read the 117-page report.

Otherwise, just read Patrick Smellie's column "No restrictions on foreign-sourced carbon credits confirmed"

"The Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Bill was reported back to parliament by the finance and expenditure select committee with only technical amendments, and a decision that capping the use of foreign credits would compromise the emissions trading scheme principle of "least cost of compliance".

The policy has seen major emitters such as oil and electricity companies snap up some of the lowest cost carbon units available on global markets, where prices have slumped to as little as $2 a tonne.

New Zealand Units, issued by the government, continue to be worth slightly more, at around $3 a tonne, but well below the $25 a tonne maximum price put on carbon when the ETS was introduced in 2009."

Or just read the press release from Peter Hardstaff, Climate Change Programme Manager at WWF-New Zealand.

“This is another nail in the coffin for New Zealand’s credibility on climate change and suggests the government has no intention of trying to set this country’s emissions on a downward path. Other parties in the UN climate talks will rightly see New Zealand’s claims to be doing something to reduce emissions as all spin and no substance."

What a complete freaking shambles!

They used to tell me I was building a dream,
and so I followed the mob,
When there was earth to plow, or guns to bear,
I was always there right on the job.
They used to tell me I was building a dream,
with peace and glory ahead,
Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread?

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

Once in khaki suits, gee we looked swell,
Full of that Yankee Doodly Dum,
Half a million boots went slogging through Hell,
And I was the kid with the drum!

Say, don't you remember, they called me Al; it was Al all the time.
Why don't you remember, I'm your pal? Buddy, can you spare a dime?

10 October 2012

A letter to the PM on Steven Joyce undermining the sub judice rule part 2

I got a reply today from the Prime Minister's office. That is to the letter I wrote asking him to remind the Hon Steven Joyce about the sub judice rule, after Joyce used a NZ Government press release and a TV1 'Breakfast' appearance, promoting coal miner Bathurst Resources in its court cases over the resource consents needed to operate an opencast coal mine in a conservation area on the Denniston Plateau south of Solid Energy's Stockton Mine.

Dear Mr Johnson

On behalf of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, I acknowledge your email of 27 September 2012. Please be assured your comments have been noted.

As the issue you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development, Hon Steven Joyce, your email has been forwarded to his office for consideration.

Thank you for taking the time to write to the Prime Minister.

Regards [name removed]

Executive Assistant | Office of the Prime Minister Private Bag 18041 | Parliament Buildings | Wellington 6160 | New Zealand

I felt like replying that if I wanted to write to Steven Joyce, I would have addressed the letter to him. There was a specific reason to write to the Prime Minister. It is because he is responsible under the Cabinet Manual for holding his Minister's accountable. So I replied as follows.

Dear [name removed]

Thank you for your email where you advise that the matter I raised (on 27 September 2012) falls within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development, the Hon Steven Joyce and that my letter has been forwarded to his office for consideration.

However, I was not writing about either mining or economic development 'per se'. I was writing specifically and deliberately to the Prime Minister about what appeared to me to be a breach of the 'sub judice' rule by the Hon Steven Joyce.

I decided to write to the Prime Minister because of section 2.53 of the Cabinet Manual which states that the Prime Minister has the role of holding Ministers accountable for upholding the highest ethical standards, which I would presume meant requiring Ministers to observe the 'sub judice' rule.

Therefore I am not interested in a reply from the Hon Steven Joyce. At the moment I do not feel at all assured that my comments have been noted. I will consider my comments have been noted if I receive a considered reply addressing the sub judice issue and the Minister's duty to the Prime Minister to observe the highest ethical standards.

I wonder what response I will get to that!

A letter to the PM on Steven Joyce undermining the sub judice rule for Bathurst Resources

A fortnight ago I blogged about Steven Joyce, the Minister of Economic Development, breaking the 'sub judice' rule by commenting on and taking sides in two court cases related to the Escarpment_Mine which are yet to be heard and decided.

I thought to myself "This is a democracy". So I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister.

Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister Parliament Office
Private Bag 18888
Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

27 September 2012

Minister of Economic Development 's press release of Tuesday 25 September 2012 on the Bathurst Resources (Escarpment Mine) court cases

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you to express my concern about the New Zealand Government press release made by the Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce on 25 September 2012 and his appearance on the TV One Breakfast show on the 26th.

In the press release Mr Joyce calls on two parties, Forest and Bird and the West Coast Environment Network, to withdraw from two upcoming court cases concerning resource consents applied for by Bathurst Resources subsidiary Buller Coal Limited for their proposed open cast coal mine in the Mount Rochfort Conservation Area, near Westport. That would leave Bathurst Resources with uncontested hearings before the Environment Court and the Court of Appeal that would result in the disputed resource consents being confirmed.

In the Government press release and the TV interview, Mr Joyce is not staying impartial towards matters before a court. He is firmly expressing an opinion as a Minister on what he thinks the outcome of the two undecided Court cases should be.

This appears to me to be contrary to the 'separation' principle that members of the Legislature and the Executive should not intrude on matters properly left to the Judiciary.

It also appears contrary to the 'sub judice' rule; which I understand to be "Don't comment on matters before a Court". The rule is set out in Parliament's 'Standing Order 112', and in "Sub judice rule" in Chapter 16 of 'Parliamentary Practice in New Zealand' and in the 'Speaker's Rulings on Sub Judice Rule Operation' by Margaret Wilson dated 16 October 2007.

Will you please draw these principles to Mr Joyce's attention?

Yours sincerely,

Let's see what reply I get.