Thousands march against mining

03:28, May 08 2010

An estimated 50,000 marchers joined one of the biggest protests in Auckland for decades today, to give the Government a firm message to stay away from mining on conservation land.

Marchers left the bottom of Queen St about 11am and by the time the first of them arrived at Myers Park, just below Karangahape Rd, they were still leaving the bottom of Queen St.

The protest blocked most of Queen St for at least an hour, but it showed how passionate New Zealanders were about protecting conservation land from mining, said Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei.

The Government has announced plans to open 7058 hectares of protected conservation land and marine reserves for mining, while adding protected status to a further 12,400ha. It said the value of resources underground could be $140 billion.

However, Ms Turei said the numbers being "bandied around" were estimates and based on superficial core samples.

She said the figures had not been substantiated, and people were saying to the Government there were some places which "were out of bounds for mineral exploitation".

"This is the Government trying to satisfy the interests of the mining industry over the interests of the New Zealand public. They want to sell off these assets to private interests, knowing they will get less than 1 percent of the royalties back, spinning industry numbers about the jobs that might be created."

The level of support was not surprising, she said.

"More than 50 percent of the country does not want schedule four land mined."

She said the Government was backing off its plans because of the widespread public opposition to mining on schedule four land, and the public wish for protection of conservation land.

She also said the Government had failed to consult Maori about the impact on them of mining the lands.

Protestors were concerned about harm to the economy, the country's "clean green" brand and the tourism industry.

"These plans are an attack on our values, that we believe our country is worth protecting, that the environment provides us with essential ecosystems services that we cannot get from elsewhere - health and soil, clean water, bio-diversity.

"Those things are not negotiable," she said.