Mountain cut from platinum search

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 12:34 24/02/2014

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Opposition from South Island Maori has persuaded the Government drop plans to mine platinum from Marlborough's highest mountain.

Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku and the land around it was one of six areas the Government was tendering for potential platinum mining. The proposal was out for public consultation late last year, and South Island iwi opposed any proposal to mine Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku.

Ngai Tahu leader Sir Mark Solomon and Rangitane o Wairau chairwoman Judith MacDonald said the iwi had been called by Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges to say he had pulled the mountain from the list of potential mining sites.

Sir Mark, speaking in Blenheim last week, said the minister had rung to say Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku was "not on the table" for mining and that he had withdrawn the exploration proposal for that area.

"It will not be happening."

South Island iwi lodged a joint proposal calling for the area to be exempted, he said, not just Ngai Tahu.

Ms MacDonald said Mr Bridges had phoned Rangitane's business development manager Richard Bradley. "It was a good victory . . . We can still look at our mountain and know it is as pristine as it ever was."

She said mining the mountain was never going to work.

A spokeswoman from Mr Bridges' office said the minister was overseas and unable to be contacted.

Information on the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment's website confirmed the mountain had been withdrawn from the minerals tender.

"One request for a proposed area to be excluded from the Platinum NZ 2013 tender was received.

"This area concerned two blocks in the Inland Kaikoura ranges which includes the mountain, Tapuae o Uenuku and holds significance for Ngai Tahu (particularly Te Runanga o Kaikoura) and Rangitane o Wairau. . . . In the instance of the proposed Inland Kaikoura area, its exclusion from the Platinum NZ2013 tender has been agreed to by the Minister of Energy and Resources."

Mt Tapuae-o-Uenuku is the highest mountain in Marlborough, at 2885 metres, and the tallest outside the Southern Alps. It can be seen from all over Marlborough and from parts of Christchurch, Taranaki and Wellington on a clear day.

The mountain was Sir Edmund Hillary's first big climb in 1944.

History website The Prow says the name of the mountain dates back to AD825, when two chiefs, Makautere and Tapuae-o-Uenuku, were searching for food-gathering places along the Kaikoura coast and inland. The Waiau-Toa and Waiau-Uwha Rivers reminded Tapuae-o-Uenuku of the tears of his wife, left behind in Hawaiki.

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Rangitane also have a tradition that an earthly chief sought his spiritual wife and child by climbing up to heaven via the rainbow of their ancestor, Uenuku.

Exploration permits for other areas are expected to be offered and granted in August 2014, for a period of five years.

- The Marlborough Express

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