Ever since its election in 2008, the National-led Government has tried to talk up the mining and exploitation of fossil fuels as New Zealand’s economic salvation. But, as anyone capable of looking further than the next three-year electoral cycle could have told them, they were chasing fool’s gold. Despite bending over backwards to smooth the path of oil drillers and coal miners, all National’s fossil fools have to show for their obsession is an eight-year record of failed projects and broken promises.

Has any of that changed their thinking? Has National finally woken up to the fact that the world has changed forever, and that fossil fuels extraction is the path to extinction, not to economic success? Hell no! Instead, their desperation to demonstrate some results – any results – from this strategy is leading them, and the country, into new and dangerous territory for the environment and for New Zealand workers alike.

Why? Because the Government is considering setting up Special Economic Zones in New Zealand to allow it to override environmental controls and other laws, including overseas investment and immigration controls, so that it can railroad through environmentally destructive projects that wouldn’t stand a chance of being economically viable if they had to go through normal consenting processes. Overriding immigration controls would let the Government force down wages in these zones – making them like the most notorious examples of “special economic zones”, the maquiladoras on the Mexican side of the Mexico-US border.

Forest and Bird have done great work on revealing and exposing the Government’s plans. One of the Government’s prime candidates for such a “special economic zone” is the Buller Plateau, where the Government wants to bypass the usual resource process hearings to open up a whole swatch of this unique natural environment to unrestricted coal mining. It’s bad enough that they are including this idea in their just-released Tai Poutini West Coast Economic Development Action Plan 2017. If Buller became a Special Economic Zone, democratic participation in the planning process would be further suppressed.

You can read Forest and Bird’s expose of the Government’s plans here:


And look at a previously secret Government document about Special Economic Zones here:


ECO has also stated its opposition:


Naturally, Coal Action Network Aotearoa is completely opposed to such proposals. At a time when we urgently need to move away from fossil fuels, proposals to bulldoze democratic participation and set aside New Zealand’s laws in the interests of fossil fuel companies are crazy.

But it isn’t just environmentalists who should oppose these Government plans. Anyone concerned with workers’ rights and conditions, or with this Government’s erosion of democracy and the law, should be just as adamantly opposed. We know the Government is concerned about a potential backlash to these proposals – let’s make sure that backlash is big, noisy, and united.