Prime Minister John Key received a hot welcome from an anti-mining group on a visit to the beach town of Whitianga yesterday.
"John Key, you've got mail - Mercury Bay is not for sale," about 50 anti-mining protesters chanted as Mr Key arrived at the Whitianga Town Hall for a meet-and-greet.
Protest organiser Augusta Macassey-Pickard said the group wanted to let Mr Key know they opposed any mining in the area.
Prospecting permits have been issued for areas around Whangamata and Mercury Bay, and an application to dredge Coromandel Harbour for gold has been lodged.
Coromandel Watchdog spokesperson Renee Annan, 23, said the Government should recognise that the environment was the Coromandel's meal ticket.
"We are here to let the Government know that we do not support their decision to allow mining in our area.
"The future of the Coromandel and the sustenance of the Coromandel is the environment and his Government have been facilitating the mining industry to attack this part of the country."
Mr Key said he was not completely sure what the group was protesting about. He said the National Party did not want to turn New Zealand into a giant mine as they alleged, and he expected any expansion of oil, gas and mineral exploration to happen in accord with international best practice.
"We're not arguing that environmental issues don't matter.
"They actually matter really importantly," Mr Key said. "I suspect many of you live here because you love the beauty of the place and the fact that it's a relatively unspoiled environment.
"As is often the case, sometimes with protests, they're about issues where it's not as straightforward as people might want to say."
- Waikato Times