Mining spokesman takes new role with government, Matt Bowen reports.
A global mining giant's outgoing spin doctor has secured an influential state role managing New Zealand's mineral resources.
Newmont Waihi Gold's go-to man for media inquiries, Sefton Darby, has secured the role of national manager for minerals at New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals - the arm of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment responsible for the country's oil, gas, mineral and coal resources.
But his appointment is a "concern" for Waihi East Ratepayers Group spokesman Terry Podmore.
Newmont is currently trying to secure land use consent to mine an estimated $1 billion in ore located beneath residential homes in Waihi East in a project dubbed "Golden Link". Mr Darby has been heavily involved in the project and for that reason he says he will not have anything to do with it in his new role.
The Hauraki District Council's hearings into the matter are currently on hold until March.
Newmont's announcement about Mr Darby's new job said, to avoid any "perceived conflict of interest" between his old and new jobs, he would not participate in any decisions regarding Newmont for the first year.
However, Mr Podmore said the Golden Link application was highly likely to drag on beyond that timeframe. "I guess on the 366th day he's now eligible to make decisions regarding Newmont's activity in Waihi and that would be a concern. "As an example, the [Golden Link] Correnso underground proposal will take all of 2013 to get to a result."
If it went to the Environment Court and even the High Court, Mr Podmore said, it could be mid-2014 before there was a final decision.
Mr Darby said: "Let me be brief - I will not be making any decisions on behalf of government on anything related to Golden Link, full stop.
"It would just be a conflict of interest, even if it takes longer than a year . . .
"There presumably comes a point at which I don't know what's going on [in Waihi] and I can start getting involved again," Mr Darby said.
His new job will involve day-to-day regulation of the nation's mineral sector, including permit allocation and finding ways to grow the sector. Mr Darby takes up his new role in Wellington in April.