Gerry still digging himself into a hole
Blogger: Forest & Bird’s Conservation Advocate Quentin Duthie
Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee still seems to be suffering from gold fever despite having to swallow a bitter pill when public opinion sank his plans to mine Schedule 4 protected conservation land.
The government’s backdown over Schedule 4 was a great victory for the conservation cause but we need to realise the fight to save some of our great landscapes and endangered animals and plants is far from over.
The government — and Gerry Brownlee in particular — is setting the scene for a further assault on our wild places by claiming the public consultation over removing Schedule 4 protection secured a mandate for mining on non-Schedule 4 conservation land.
The minister has said the mandate to mine more non-Schedule 4 conservation land was made clear in TV polls but such a question was never asked. He also said the same mandate came through during the public consultation but again, the question was not asked.
Despite this, thousands of submitters to the consultation stated their opposition to a proposed survey to search for mining prospects on conservation land.
And a total of 96 percent of people who responded gave a resounding no to a question on whether the Energy Minister should join the Conservation Minister in signing off applications for mining access to conservation land.
Submitters were clearly opposed to trading off short term economic gain for conservation values and did not want the Energy Minister having a say in the fate of conservation land, a move the government’s discussion document said would “better facilitate mineral development”.
We need to build on the strong support for Schedule 4 protection by pushing for all of the top quality conservation areas to be included in the schedule. At the moment world heritage and ecological areas, nature reserves, high country parks and marine mammal sanctuaries do not all qualify for Schedule 4 protection.
Furthermore, to ensure no government can again fly in the face of public opinion by trying to dig up Schedule 4 land, we want any future removals from the schedule to require an act of parliament rather than be subject to the whim of government ministers.