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Gerry Brownlee, Kate Wilkinson

22 March, 2010

Time to discuss maximising our mineral potential

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson today released a discussion paper containing a suite of measures to facilitate the environmentally responsible development of New Zealand's extensive mineral estate.


The Ministers said a preliminary Government stocktake of land in Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act (where all mining other than minimum impact activity is prohibited), and other areas beyond, reached four conclusions:



  • 1. New Zealand is mineral rich and the environmentally responsible development of this potential is a very real possibility;


  • 2. Much of the country's mineral potential is concentrated, often in public conservation areas with high conservation and cultural values;


  • 3. The mineral potential of Schedule Four lands could be developed with only a very small proportion of the land being directly impacted; and


  • 4. Information on New Zealand's mineral potential is limited and Government has a role to improve our knowledge of the mineral estate.

"Our mineral resources - even excluding coal and other hydrocarbon-based minerals - are estimated to be worth approximately $194 billion," Mr Brownlee said.


"New Zealand is a mineral rich country and the minerals sector has an important role to play.  The government is committed to delivering greater prosperity, security and opportunity for all New Zealanders, but achieving that means doing a number of things differently.


"We acknowledge mining is an emotive issue but we hope a rational conversation can now take place about the potential for utilising more of the country's valuable natural resources for the greater good.


"We now have the parameters for a constructive discussion about the role mining might play in helping grow the economy and the value of our exports to help improve living standards for New Zealanders.


"Today the government is suggesting allowing potential access, with appropriate environmental mitigation, to a small percentage of that resource," Mr Brownlee said.


The Government is proposing to remove 7,058 hectares of land from Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act, including some areas in the Coromandel Peninsula and the Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park.


Mr Brownlee said it was important to view the proposal in context.


"7,058 hectares is just 0.2 per cent of Schedule Four land.  Moreover, if that land subsequently saw mining development, only around five per cent of the land might actually be mined - as little as 500 hectares.  This is nothing like the vast tracts of land suggested to date by the environmental lobby.


"In fact 500 hectares is smaller than what the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry describes as an average New Zealand sheep and beef farm (550 ha).


"However, it is 500 hectares across a number of potential sites that could have big economic benefit for New Zealand.  Mining in New Zealand is already a $2 billion industry, which contributes to export receipts and government revenue.


"It's also worth noting that in productivity terms, workers in the mining sector return an average of $360,000 of GDP per worker, nearly six times the national average."


With the stocktake having identified the need for more knowledge of the country's mineral assets, Mr Brownlee said approximately $4 million would be invested over the next nine months to gather further information on highly prospective non-Schedule Four areas such as Northland and the Schedule Four areas of the Coromandel, Paparoa National Park and Rakiura National Park in Stewart Island.


The Government is also proposing that applications for access arrangements to Conservation and other Crown land for mineral-related activities be considered by both the relevant land holding Minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources.  At present, only the Conservation Minister considers applications for access arrangements to Conservation land for mineral-related activities.


Ms Wilkinson said it should be noted that while the Government was proposing removing 7,058 hectares from the 4.6 million hectares in Schedule Four under the Crown Minerals Act, it was also proposing to add a further 12,400 hectares - a net gain in protected areas of 5,342 hectares.


"The areas being considered for removal are small and any mining on conservation land is subject to strict environmental tests.  It has been made clear that any future mining applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis and conservation and environmental management remain a key consideration. 


"There is ample room for the public to undertake a considered debate about the conservation values and economic potential of the areas proposed for removal from Schedule Four," Ms Wilkinson says


Ms Wilkinson said the Government is also proposing to create a dedicated Conservation Fund based on a portion of future royalties it receives from mining in public conservation areas.  The budget for the fund would be 50 per cent of royalty revenue from minerals (other than petroleum) from public conservation areas, with a minimum of $2 million per annum for the first four years and a maximum of $10 million per annum.


The purpose of releasing the discussion document is to gather feedback to inform final recommendations to Cabinet before decisions are made in mid-2010.


Submissions on the proposals close at 5.00pm on Tuesday 4 May 2010.


Further information, including the discussion paper and maps, is available at www.med.govt.nz/schedule4


 

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