Cracks appear in mining plan
Prime Minister John Key says he is not concerned about one of his backbenchers speaking out against mining proposals.
The Government announced yesterday plans to take land in the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and parts of Paparoa National Park on the West Coast out of the protection of schedule 4 in the Crown Minerals Act.
The Government will also spend $4 million looking at potentially mineral-rich schedule 4 land in other parts of the Coromandel and in Paparoa National Park, as well as Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island.
Ms Kaye this morning reiterated her opposition as she headed into a caucus meeting with National Party colleagues.
"I don't think the case [for mining] adds up with Great Barrier Island."
But she would not say whether she opposed mining in other parts of the country.
"I know my electorate very well and I feel I know Great Barrier Island so I feel I'm able to comment on that. I spent the last 18 months working very hard on some environmental issues in the electorate so that's what I know about."
She also refused to be drawn on whether she would continue to oppose the move if it came down to a vote.
"At the moment there are no plans for legislation, but you cross that bridge when you come to it."
Mr Key told reporters he was "not overly concerned" about Ms Kaye's comments and said he had known she would make them.
"I think she is saying that she has specific views on this and has held those views for a long period of time," Mr Key said.
"The question is whether the merits of that argument stack up. Now, at the moment, what we're saying to New Zealanders is there is a real potential there, there is already extensive mining activity in New Zealand and here is an opportunity to potentially extend that."
Auckland centre-right mayor John Banks also attacked the Great Barrier Island proposal.
"This is the untouched jewel in the crown of Hauraki Maritime Park. Any suggestion it should be removed from schedule 4 will be met with strong opposition from the citizens of Auckland."
Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson said a stocktake put the value of New Zealand's mineral resources at $194 billion, excluding coal and hydrocarbons, of which $80b was on schedule 4 land. There was potential for about $60b worth to be mined.
Mr Brownlee said he had discussed the Ms Kaye's concerns with her on Sunday. Her views did not undermine the Government, he said.
"This is a public discussion document and I think Nikki has centred her concerns on a part of her electorate and that's quite reasonable."
"You've got to respect the fact that people are elected in electorates and they have to represent their electorates and this is a public consultation document. MPs are part of the general discussion on that."
"Nikki is expressing a view about her concerns and that is perfectly reasonable."
Mr Brownlee said the changes would be made through a non-legislative process so Ms Kaye would not have an opportunity to vote against the Government.
"I don't think this is a big deal."
"There is no pre-arranged deals, I can assure you of that."
Mr Brownlee said the public mood was 50-50.
"It will just be interesting to see where public opinion goes."
"We're talking about an area of land that is comparatively the size of a postcard on Eden Park. It's not a big deal."
Mr Brownlee said only a "tiny percentage" of land - 0.2 per cent - would be removed from the schedule under the proposal - "nothing like the vast tracts of land suggested to date by the environmental lobby".
As little as 500ha would probably be mined.
Ms Wilkinson said mining would be subject to strict environmental tests under the Resource Management Act. The Government also proposed adding 12,000ha of land to schedule 4.
Mr Brownlee said the Government's books were in a parlous state and it needed money, which mining could help generate, to help families under pressure.
Opening more land for mining would also boost exports. The biggest miner is state-owned Solid Energy. Mining could start in three to five years, with coal and gold reserves likely to be exploited first. But there was also considerable potential in rare earth elements, worth $300 to $500 a kilogram.
China, the only other country with significant reserves of these, was starting to lock them up for local consumption, meaning the international price would probably rise.
Labour leader Phil Goff said a Labour government would return any land removed from schedule 4 under the legislative protection from mining.
WHAT'S UP FOR GRABS
The Government is proposing opening 7058 hectares of sensitive conservation land in Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park in the South Island to prospecting by removing it from schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
The 3.4 million hectares now covered by schedule 4 – 12.75 per cent of New Zealand's total land area – cannot be mined. The Government is also investigating the mining potential of more schedule 4 land in the Coromandel and on Stewart Island and non-Schedule 4 land in Northland.
Coromandel: Seven areas totalling 2574ha on the peninsula, plus the 396ha Otahu Ecological Area and the 68ha Parakawai Geological Area to the south are proposed for removal from schedule 4. The wider Coromandel is estimated to contain $54b in minerals, mostly gold and silver.
Paparoa National Park: The 3315ha Inangahua sector may contain $1b to $2b of coal.
Great Barrier Island: The 705ha Te Ahumata Plateau, considered to have gold and silver deposits potentially worth $4.3b.
Stewart Island: Rakiura National Park is estimated to have $7b in minerals.
Northland: Estimated to have $47b in mineral reserves.