Once again this government’s values have collided with a region’s desire to gain jobs as an application to mine West Coast coal has been refused.
Rangatira Developments wanted to take 250,000 tonnes of coal annually from an open cast mine that would cover 109 hectares in total.
But the scheme involves 12 hectares of conservation land so the government said no.
The Conservation Minister, Eugenie Sage, turned down the application to mine conservation land because it would create irreparable damage to the area. She says it was an undisturbed area with threatened plants and wildlife including the great spotted kiwi, land snails and lizards.
Locals are not happy. Buller Mayor Garry Howard says the decision put the whole project, and 60 jobs, in doubt, as the land in question was at the entrance to the larger site. He says there is a place for boutique mining such as this one.
After all says the Mayor, DOC has 1.6 million hectares of land on the West Coast, and this application involved just 12 hectares of it.
You could see this coming considering this government has already turned down future exploration for oil and gas which doesn’t even involve the harvesting of the finds.
The government says coal, oil and gas are the energy of the past so let’s get on with the future.
It’s not hard to have sympathy for the Coasters who can see 60 jobs just sitting there for the plucking. 60 salaries which would flow through all the economy.
But it’s also not hard to have some sympathy for the government as well. The revolution is coming. Coal is dirty and its days are numbered. However you could argue that the government is jumping into the future too quickly.
While there are 60 jobs there you have to ask how long they’ll last so that when the future does arrive and the jobs are gone we’re left with a gash in the environment that will never fully heal.
For me any development on the Coast has to be sustainable and long lasting. A development that continues to give and enables even more growth. Coal is a temporary fix.
So how about a real test of this government and their smothering love for the environment. With their love of electric vehicles and trams surely the development of dams and electricity are a given. In which case how about the Mokihinui Hydro Dam? An idea which has been around since the 60s. A dam which would create a 14 kilometre long lake in Conservation land and change the environment but at the same time secure power for the coast.
Meridien pulled the idea in 2012 when they realised the Department of Conservation and Forest and Bird would fight this to the bitter end.
Perhaps it’s time to give a West Coast electricity plan another go and see whether this government is following ideology rather than looking for real and sustainable growth.