Bench hopes for fast decision on Bathurst coalmine

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 07:33 19/12/2012

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The bench hopes to return a speedy decision on Bathurst Resources' proposed opencast coalmine on the Denniston Plateau, Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook says.

The Environment Court hearing for the West Coast Environment Network and the Royal Forest & Bird Society's appeal of NZX-listed Bathurst's Escarpment coalmine project near Westport was summed up yesterday. The judge said many aspects of public interest had been raised in the hearing.

"We've moved at lightning pace. It's our intention to get our decision to the parties as soon as possible, but we can't tie ourselves to a particular date [of decision]," he said. Considering not only the investors of the publicly listed miner, but also those who were upset by the environmental implications of the plan, it demanded haste, he said.

The battle over the project will hinge on whether adequate conditions, management plan and mitigation can sufficiently lessen the inevitable environmental damage.

The West Coast Regional Council and the Buller District Council gave the project resource consent in August 2011.

Their lawyer, Hans van der Wal, said parts of the plan would compromise ecologically significant areas, but that did not mean the mine should be rejected. Neither environmental nor development interests could be dominant over the other, he said.

They had to be weighed equally under the Resource Management Act.

"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.

Forest & Bird lawyer Peter Anderson said the conditions were "far from" appropriate and a "high risk" existed they would fail.

The hearing was set to last four weeks, with a fortnight break, ending on December 7, but it ran more than a week over time. Fairfax NZ

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