Headline: Catherine Delahunty questions the Minister of Conservation on mining the Denniston Plateau
as Minister of Conservation, he will have allowed the destruction of a unique landscape with distinctive rare and threatened plants, and that proposed compensation will do nothing to stop the destruction of that specific environment
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he agree with advice from his own Department of Conservation, in regards to Bathurst’s plans for an opencast coal mine on the Denniston Plateau, “there would be significant and irreversible adverse effects on the conservation values and overall ecological integrity of the application area and the Denniston Plateau should the proposed activity be approved”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes. In regard to the area to be mined, the effects will be significant and irreversible. I also note the advice, though, that the area concerned has already been mined, has a dam and artificial lake, includes roads and bulldozer tracks, and has infestation from weeds like gorse and broom. I also note the advice that the area to be mined is general stewardship land. It is not national park, conservation park, or any class of reserve or sanctuary. It is the lowest conservation category of land managed by the department and the mine affects 5 percent of the plateau.
Catherine Delahunty: How can he, as Minister of Conservation, approve an access agreement for a proposal, possibly the first of six from Bathurst Resources, which his own department has advised is inconsistent with the objectives of the Conservation Act?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because the member is selective in the advice from the 230-page report from the department. The departmental report said that there was very significant benefits from the $22 million compensation package and that the threats from pests on both the Denniston Plateau and the West Coast were far greater than those from mining. The advice I have received is that, for instance, with this package the population of a special species like the whio, or blue duck, will increase fivefold within 5 years as a consequence of the compensation package that goes with the mine application.
Catherine Delahunty: How will New Zealand’s environment be better off, given that after the completion of the Bathurst Resources pest control programme, the pests will come back, but the significant and irreversible mining damage will remain for ever on Denniston Plateau?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The programme of pest control is for a period of 50 years. Of course, the mine application also requires the rehabilitation of the area. The member’s wish may be that the area actually be environmentally detrimental from what it is now. Actually because it has been mined, the water in the area to be mined is almost as strong as acid. As a condition of the consent, the water in this area right where it is being mined will actually be of better quality than what it is now. The Green Party totally overlooks the fact that the Denniston Plateau has been mined for over 100 years.
Catherine Delahunty: Does he accept that, as Minister of Conservation, he will have allowed the destruction of a unique landscape with distinctive rare and threatened plants, and that proposed compensation will do nothing to stop the destruction of that specific environment?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The part I cannot work out from the Greens is this: they do not want mining anywhere, but I want to know where they are going to manufacture the wind farms. And what about the glass and the steel that we use in daily lives? One of the facts they overlook is that the only way that you can manufacture steel is with good quality coking coal, and it is hypocritical for people to say no to mining but want to use steel in their daily lives.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table a photograph that I took myself of the iconic landscape on the Denniston Plateau, and it has not—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a point of order and it is seeking leave to table a photograph that the member has taken herself. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none. The member can table the document.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.