Bathurst coalmine appeal wraps up
The Denniston Plateau is ecologically significant and it's up to applicant Bathurst Resources to prove its plans can lessen the damage of its proposed coalmine, the Environment Court has heard.
The Environment Court hearing for an appeal of Bathurst's Escarpment coalmine project near Westport, on the Denniston Plateau, is being summed up in Christchurch today.
West Coast Environment Network and the Royal Forest & Bird Society are appealing the NZX-listed company's plans.
Environment network lawyer Quentin Davies said there was no disagreement that the plateau was ecologically significant. The only uncertainty was whether mitigation would work and it was up to Bathurst to prove the techniques were adequate, he said.
The miner plans to engineer artificial habitats at the 188-hectare site, as well as paying for 35 years of pest and predator control in about 4000 hectares of surrounding land.
The court hearing had been considerably longer and more in-depth than the councils' hearing, which meant the court could divert from the original approval of the project, he said.
Bathurst's landscape expert believed the opencast mine "was not incongruous" with the plateau, which had been underground mined previously, and people would not be surprised with further mining.
The environmentalists' landscape expert had disagreed, saying that was like arguing "a new Greek Parliament would fit well on top of the Acropolis".
Forest & Bird lawyer Peter Anderson said the plateau was nationally significant, despite it not being protected under the international Ramsar Convention.
The mine would remove 11 per cent of the plateau ecosystem and the plantings and engineered landscapes proposed by Bathurst would do little to replace what would be lost, he said.
"It is hard to see anything of significance remaining after mining for decades or centuries."
Hans van der Wal, lawyer for both the West Coast Regional and the Buller District councils which supported Bathurst, said it was clear that aspects of the plan would mean the compromise of ecologically significant areas.
But that did not mean the mine should be rejected, rather that the conditions needed to be right and robust, he said.
"This matter turns, really, on whether adequate conditions can be imposed."
Another key factor was the effectiveness of rehabilitation and the environmental offsets proposed, he said.
Consenting the project would not necessarily open the floodgates to other mines, he said.
The Buller District Plan did enable mining, as long as it did not conflict with overriding environmental protections, which were addressed in the plan as well, he said.
Neither environmental nor development interests could be dominant over the other, he said. They had to be weighed equally under the Resource Management Act.
Bathurst Resources is yet to sum up its case.
The hearing was originally set down for four weeks with a two-week break, finishing on December 7, but it ran more than a week over time.
Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook and Environment Commissioners Carron Blom and Russell Howie are hearing the appeal.