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Gerry Brownlee, Kate Wilkinson

20 July, 2010

No land to be removed from Schedule 4

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson announced today that the government has decided not to remove any land from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act for the purposes of further mineral exploration or extraction.

Mr Brownlee said he had always made it clear the government was undertaking a genuine consultation process and had not made up its mind on any of the matters prior to the eight week discussion period which began on March 22. 

The government received 37,552 submissions on its discussion paper titled Maximising Our Mineral Potential: Stocktake of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act and beyond.

"The vast majority of submissions were focused on the proposal to remove 0.2 per cent of land from Schedule 4 to allow for wider mineral prospecting on those sites," Mr Brownlee said. 

"Most of those submissions said we should not remove any land from Schedule 4.  We heard that message loud and clear.

"From my perspective this has been a valuable exercise.  I suspect few New Zealanders knew the country had such considerable mineral potential before we undertook this process, and I get a sense that New Zealanders are now much more aware of that potential and how it might contribute to economic growth.

"Essentially the discussion process identified where the minerals industry can and can't go.  As many people have pointed out, around 85 per cent of the country is not protected by Schedule 4, and a great deal of that land has mineral potential. 

"New Zealanders have given the minerals sector a clear mandate to go and explore that land, and where appropriate, within the constraints of the resource consent process, utilise its mineral resources for everyone's benefit," Mr Brownlee said.

The government has also decided to undertake a significant aeromagnetic survey of non Schedule 4 land in Northland and on the West Coast of the South Island to learn more about which areas have the highest concentrations of valuable minerals.

"I am delighted to announce that the aeromagnetic survey in Northland will be conducted as a partnership between central government and the various agencies of local government in Northland. 

"It is our expectation that when that data becomes available there will be an escalation of mineral exploration and extraction in those areas, which will be of benefit to the economies of both regions."

The technical exploration process will also make a major contribution to public good science by identifying and de-risking a range of hazards associated with soil and rock instability, which will assist with management of earthquakes and landslides.

Ms Wilkinson said the government had agreed to continue with its proposal to add 14 areas totalling 12,400 hectares of land to Schedule 4. 

In addition, in the future all areas given classifications equivalent to current Schedule 4 areas, such as national parks and marine reserves, will automatically become part of Schedule 4. 

"We wanted to allay the fears of some submitters that the government may consider allowing mining in national parks in the future by taking this possibility off the table.  This is an added layer of protection for New Zealand's most highly valued conservation land," Ms Wilkinson said.

The discussion paper suggested the establishment of a conservation fund where a percentage of the royalties from mineral extraction on Schedule 4 land would be paid to the Crown for conservation purposes. 

"In the circumstances this is considered redundant and therefore won't proceed," Ms Wilkinson said.

Finally, the discussion paper proposed that application of access arrangements for Crown land for mineral development be considered by both the land holding Minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources, as opposed to the present practice of being considered by the land holding Minister only. 

The government has decided to amend the protocol so that both land holding Ministers and the Minister of Energy and Resources will now need to sign off on applications for access arrangements to Crown land for mineral developments. 

Questions and answers

•1.    What decisions has the government agreed to?

After carefully considering the feedback received on the Maximising Our Mineral Potential: Stocktake of Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act and Beyond discussion paper, the Government has agreed that:

  • i. No areas will be removed from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
  • ii. All of the 14 areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4 will be added to the schedule.
  • iii. A technical investigation will be undertaken of Northland (in strategic alliance with Northland Regional Council, the Far North District Council, and Enterprise Northland), the West Coast of the South Island and various other highly prospective areas in the South Island - excluding any Schedule 4 areas. This will identify mineral deposits and assist with hazard identification (for example, faults and slips), road maintenance and conservation planning.
  • iv. Areas given classifications equivalent to current Schedule 4 areas (for example, national parks and marine reserves) will in the future be automatically added to Schedule 4. Such classifications will be agreed by Cabinet.
  • v. Significant applications to mine on public conservation land will be publicly notified.
  • vi. The process for approval of mineral-related access arrangements over Crown land will be amended so that approvals are jointly decided by the land-holding minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources, and take into account criteria related to the economic, mineral and national significance of the proposal.
  • vii. The proposed conservation fund based on mineral royalties will not proceed.

The automatic inclusion of some types of public conservation land in Schedule 4, the process for classification of those classes of land, and public notification of mining applications on public conservation land were not proposed in the discussion paper but are decisions that have been adopted in response to the feedback received in submissions.

•2.    What response did the government receive on the discussion paper?

In total 37,552 submissions were received:

  • 32,318 submissions were made by individuals using standard submission form templates provided by organisations such as Greenpeace and Forest & Bird.
  • 5,234 unique submissions were made by individuals and organisations.

Changes to Schedule 4

•3.    The government has agreed to no land removals from Schedule 4; why and what protections will there be for high value conservation areas in the future? 

New Zealanders have been clear that conservation areas and national parks in particular, are of abiding and deep importance to New Zealanders and should be protected - with the vast majority of submitters opposing the removal of all the areas identified in the discussion paper.

The government has heard this and has agreed that in future all national parks and other types of high value conservation value areas listed in Schedule 4 will be automatically added to the schedule and given protection from mining.  This was not proposed in the discussion paper but decided based on feedback received.

•4.    What areas will be added to Schedule 4 and when?

All of the 14 areas proposed for addition in the discussion paper, totalling 12,400 hectares, will be added to the schedule.  Almost all submissions supported this proposal.  The areas to be added to Schedule 4 by October 2010 are:

Name

Size (ha)

Location

Marine Reserves

Horoirangi Marine Reserve

903

Nelson

Parininihi Marine Reserve

1,844

North Taranaki

Tapuae Marine Reserve

1,404

New Plymouth

Taputeranga Marine Reserve

855

Wellington

Te Paepae o Aotea (Volkner Rocks) Marine Reserve

1,267

White Island

Whangarei Harbour Marine Reserve

237

Whangarei

Coromandel/Hauraki Gulf Islands

Kaikoura Island Scenic Reserve

564

Great Barrier

Rakitu Island Scenic Reserve

253

Great Barrier

Land Areas

Abel Tasman National Park additions

914

Nelson

Burwood Bush Scientific Reserve

3,114

Southland

Egmont National Park additions

358

Taranaki

Ianthe Scientific Reserve

211

West Coast

Orokonui Nature Reserve

236

Dunedin

Paparoa National Park (northwest addition)

240

West Coast

 

The mineral investigation programme

•5.    What is the further technical investigation programme?

The discussion paper proposed further investigation of New Zealand's geology to improve knowledge of mineral potential.  Submitters recognised the value in this proposal.  The investigation will also assist with hazard identification (for example, faults and slips), road maintenance and conservation planning.

Further work on the proposal has been completed, and the programme agreed by the government involves the following:

  • an aeromagnetic survey over the Northland region in strategic alliance with local bodies
  • an aeromagnetic survey over the West Coast of the South Island
  • a desktop review, technical studies of existing samples, and selected hand sampling of the Longwood Complex in Southland and similar rocks in the inland Kaikoura Range
  • desktop reviews, technical studies of existing samples, and selected hand sampling of the Riwaka Complex in northwest Nelson, seafloor rocks in both east Nelson and South Westland, and rocks north of Haast River that have the potential to host rare earth elements.

•6.    Will Schedule 4 areas be included in the programme?

No Schedule 4 areas will be included the programme.

•7.    What is the cost of the programme?

The estimated cost to the government is up to $4.5 million, subject to the tenders received for undertaking the work. 

The aeromagnetic survey over the Northland region will be conducted in a strategic alliance with the Far North District Council and Northland Regional Council, who will contribute to the cost of the survey work, and Enterprise Northland.

•8.    What is an aeromagnetic survey?

An aeromagnetic survey is conducted from a high-flying aeroplane and involves measuring characteristics naturally occurring in the earth.  It includes both magnetic and radiometric surveying.  A magnetic survey involves measuring the magnetic characteristics of the ground below using a magnetometer, while radiometric surveying involves measuring naturally occurring radiation in the soils and rocks below.  Interpretation of this data can be used for a wide variety of applications.  In terms of Northland and the West Coast, the enhanced knowledge of prospective areas is anticipated to increase exploration interest and consequently, investment, in the areas.  Both surveys will also make a significant contribution to public good science.

•9.    What will be the public science benefit of the aeromagnetic surveys?

Magnetic surveying will map rock-type variations and show rock structure, such as faults, that will assist with hazard science and engineering, identification of slip hazards, and road maintenance and realignment, as well as improving knowledge of the mineralisation of areas.

Radiometric surveying will assist with the detection of geothermal systems (and energy), as well as improving knowledge of the mineralisation of areas.  For Northland in particular, this will be helpful in determining the extent that geothermal systems extend under conservation land.  Radiometrics also have strong soil mapping applications, which may assist the Department of Conservation in better understanding and managing flora distribution and biodiversity.

Automatic inclusion to Schedule 4 and reclassification of conservation areas

•10.  What has been agreed re automatic inclusion to Schedule 4?

Many submitters thought that those conservation areas listed by class in Schedule 4, such as national parks, should automatically be included in Schedule 4, providing those areas with explicit protection from most mineral-related activity immediately on their classification.

The government agrees, and will be amending the Crown Minerals Act 1991 accordingly.  To ensure that all considerations, including renewable energy uses, tourism and the mineral potential of the area are considered up front, conservation classification proposals will be signed off by Cabinet in the future (currently the Minister of Conservation makes those decisions alone). 

Public notification of mining applications on public conservation land

•11.  What has the government agreed to, and why?

The government has agreed in principle that significant applications to mine on public land should be publicly notified - currently no notification is required.  This proposal was not raised in the discussion paper as an issue for discussion, but the government has noted public feedback on this matter and is responding accordingly.

The proposal will ensure that mining-related applications are treated in the same way as other applications for access to conservation land.  The change will provide an opportunity for affected people and businesses to have their views taken into account when decisions are made about mining applications of significance.

Changes to arrangements for access to Crown land

•12.  What has the government agreed to, and why?

Decisions regarding access to land for mineral-related activity are to be made jointly by the landholding minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources. While many submitters considered a change in decision making on access arrangements would increase the likelihood that access to Crown land for mineral development would be granted, Cabinet has concluded that the current provisions are insufficient to ensure that economic and mineral objectives are properly considered.  In addition to considering the purpose for which the land is held and the management plans relating to it, ministers will also be required to take into account criteria relating to the economic, mineral and national significance of the proposal. 

In terms of the conservation fund proposal

•13.  Why is the Government not proceeding with the conservation fund?

The fund was proposed as a means of ensuring that the conservation sector benefited from mining activities that might have occurred in future on Schedule 4 lands.  However, no land will be removed from the schedule.

In addition, 88 per cent of responses did not support the proposal to establish a fund.  Most of these stated that it was not appropriate to fund the preservation of conservation land from the revenue derived from mining.

Timing of decisions

•14.  When will decisions come into effect?

It will be several months before changes can be enacted.  The additions to Schedule 4 are expected to be made by October 2010, with Ministers to make final decisions on how to implement the other changes at a similar time.

  • Gerry Brownlee
  • Kate Wilkinson
  • Conservation
  • Energy and Resources