Environmental activists are “killing off jobs” in the industry that is crucial for New Zealand’s economic future; mining.
This is according to the leader of the ACT (Association of Consumers and Taxpayers political party, Rodney Hide, whose party espouses free market classic liberalism in the New Zealand Parliament.
The party stands for “individual freedom, personal responsibility, doing the best for our natural environment and for smaller, smarter government in its goals of a prosperous economy, strong society and quality of life that is the envy of the world,” according to its website.
At the party’s annual conference in Auckland yesterday, Hide accused the country of not taking advantage of its natural resources, which is key during the difficult financial times.
In March last year the New Zealand government ignited a storm of controversy when it proposed opening 7000 hectares of conservation land in the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park for prospecting the valuable minerals located there.
Protest groups protested actively against the decision.
In July, the government did a back flip and announced it would not mine on land protected under schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act, which the conservation area falls under.
Hide said the government has “lost its nerve” against environmentalist groups and New Zealand lost the chance to ever discover what wealth might be available from mining exploration.
"It wasn’t about mining, wasn’t about digging or drilling,” he said.
“Just looking to see what was there so that we could make an informed decision.
"But the simple suggestion that we ‘have a look to see what potential wealth we have’ alarmed those who rate a few trees more important than the chance for a decent livelihood for working people."
The ACT leader blamed tough environmental requirements for mining developments and said they were so tough many projects never began.
"Or, as we have seen with Pike River, they end up with absurdly restrictive rules regarding environmental impacts on conservation land, so that options such as open cast mining are taken off the table.
"We end up mining at great additional cost and much increased risk."
He said the tragic deaths of the 29 men in underground explosions at the mine were a waste and the consideration of making Pike River an open cut mine came too late.
"Not long after that disaster, we heard that Government was considering whether this mine should be open cast after all,” hide said.
“And with $10 billion of resource underground, surely we should have the ability to mine, open cast if necessary, and then repair any damage done when we have finished."
The former National leader in New Zealand, Don Brash also broached the mining issue when he spoke at the two-day conference and said politicians often blamed the difference in living standards between New Zealand and Australia on the wealth of minerals across the Tasman.
"What’s more, we too have an enormous wealth of resources – including many minerals, even if we make a virtue of not using them," Brash said.
"It’s simply cop-out, defeatist nonsense to claim that we can’t match Australian incomes because of their mineral wealth."
Image: Radio NZ