PRESS RELEASE 16 June 2018
The decision to protect a section of the West Coast’s Mt Rochfort Conservation area from becoming a coal mine – announced today by the Government – will come as an enormous relief to a lot of New Zealanders, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.
“This is a victory for the thousands who opposed this mine from across the country, for the precious ecosystem on the mountain, and for the climate,” said CANA’s Cindy Baxter.
Earlier this year CANA, with 350.org, delivered a 6000-strong petition to the Ministers involved in the decision: Hon Meghan Woods and Hon Eugenie Sage, urging them to protect the area.
“We know the Government has a new policy to protect conservation land from mining, but they still had to make this decision within the restrictions of a law designed under a different policy. It’s great However, it was clear from the outset that this 12ha area was of outstanding conservation value,” she said.
The 12ha section at Te Kuha was at the top of the mountain, and part of a wider, 109ha mine footprint. From the 2015 DOC assessment (see page 10 – and a map on page 9) it was clear the mine site would be visible from downtown Westport, and from the hugely popular tourist road through the Buller Gorge. The company, Rangitira Developments, had applied to DOC for access in early 2016, but the decision was delayed.
Meanwhile, late last year the Buller District Council granted Rangitira Developments a consent to mine the bulk of the 109ha footprint, in the Westport Water Conservation Area.
Forest & Bird (joined by CANA, and the Department of Conservation) have appealed it to the Environment Court, which will hear the case late next month. The Department of Conservation originally made a very neutral submission to the Council, but is now appealing the decision.
“Stevenson’s mining has said it cannot proceed if DOC declined its application so we will soon find out whether that was just bluff to pressure a decision in their favour,” said Baxter.
“But meanwhile we – and the kiwi and gecko and this beautiful area – are celebrating.”