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John MacDonald: Shane Jones' billion dollar opportunity

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 May 2024, 1:47pm
Photo / File
Photo / File

John MacDonald: Shane Jones' billion dollar opportunity

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 May 2024, 1:47pm

Mining is on the way back. 

That’s the message today from Regional Development and Resources Minister Shane Jones who is on the West coast to announce the Government's proposal to double mining exports (which are already worth $1 billion) by allowing mining in some conservation areas - not just for coal, but other minerals too. 

The Government says one of the big selling points is the number of jobs it would create. About 2,000 new jobs it reckons. And not just on the Coast, either. Because the Government thinks there are opportunities here in Canterbury too, as well as Marlborough. 

Not that the protesters, who are going to be all over this today, are buying that. They don’t want a bar of it. 

Which is the challenge we’re always going to have with something like this, isn’t it? Cover your ears, no-no-no, not interested, mining is bad, blah blah blah. 

But I tell you what, I’m willing to hear the Government out on this one. It’s not like Shane Jones is going to be telling us that it’s all-go from tomorrow, that he'll be sending the trucks in at dawn. 

What he is saying is let’s have a look at this and see if we can make it work. Let’s investigate what we’ve got under the ground and work out if we can make a go of it. And he’ll get no opposition from me on that. 

Not that a few protesters will be an issue for this particular minister. Shane Jones being Shane Jones, he’ll probably be right up for a bit of korero with the anti-mining crew. 

He might even trot out that line he used recently when he said (quote): “If there is a mining opportunity and it's impeded by a blind frog, then goodbye, Freddie.” 

So, what this is all about today isn’t just coal and gold. It’s about all the other minerals under the ground on the Coast, in Canterbury and in Marlborough, that the Government reckons could be a goldmine for the New Zealand economy. 

But, of course, what today will inevitably lead to is a battle of ideologies. It’s probably underway already, actually, which doesn’t help anyone. And it’s something I’ve seen before. 

I remember in 1999 and 2000 when I was working as a journalist and spending a lot of my time on the West Coast reporting on the stoush over the then-Labour government’s move to end native logging on Crown-owned land. 

The people on the Coast went berserk because they saw jobs and businesses going at the expense of Labour’s ideology which said taking trees away was bad. Which also put a lot of the locals up against the environmental crowd, who thought no tree should be touched. 

What kind of got lost in that row was the fact that the trees weren’t being felled with chainsaws, they were being pulled out of the ground using helicopters in a way designed to let new trees grow and to allow the forests to keep regenerating. 

But Helen Clark and Michael Cullen got their way and the native logging on Crown land came to a halt.  

What I learned from that experience is how limiting ideologies can be and I hope we don’t repeat the same mistake this time around. Because I say ‘let’s take a look, let’s see if we can get a slice of the minerals pie that Shane Jones is talking about’.  

Because who wants to be saying coulda, woulda, shoulda in a few years time about another billion dollars in earnings for our mining sector? I don’t. Do you? 

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