Thames plan too soft on mining, says watchdog

HARRY PEARL
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2014

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Proposed changes to the Thames-Coromandel District Plan have been criticised by an anti-mining group who say they do not do enough to protect the environment or communities.

Coromandel Watchdog has seized upon the council's advanced plan, which updates the district's 2010 resource management blueprint, and has slated the authority's "facilitative approach" to mining.

"I think the plan provides a really good potential framework, but the council needs to tighten it up and make sure vulnerable, sensitive ecosystems and residential areas are not left to have the detrimental effects of mining," said watchdog co-ordinator Renee Annan.

The document, which regulates all land use and development within the district, enables mining in many district zones and in areas deemed as having outstanding natural landscapes, landscapes with amenity values, and areas with natural character value.

But it has also limited mining in some areas zoned recreational and residential.

Now, an application to mine underground in a residential area has been reclassified as a non-complying activity, instead of discretionary activity. A non-complying activity is more stringent and means that the applicant must show that adverse effects on the environment are minor and consistent with the District Plan.

Council chief executive David Hammond said the rules had been tightened around residential activity because the council was leaving room for urban development. "We've got some aspirations for community expansion and growth and those are the types of activities we see taking priority."

But Ms Annan said mining in residential areas should not even be on the table.

The council has introduced new "overlay rules" that govern areas of special landscape and natural character value, as well as the coastal environment and other important areas.

Although overlay rules override district-wide and zone rules, the council has left the door open for underground mining in areas with outstanding landscape value and in areas deemed to have natural character value.

Mr Hammond said the council was aware of the very different views about mining on the peninsula, and it was hard to appease each side.

The District Plan is open for submissions until March 14 and Coromandel Watchdog is holding a series of workshops, the first tomorrow at Hauraki House in Coromandel Town.

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- Waikato Times

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