Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Jan Wright, has voiced concerns over mining’s special access rights to Department of Conservation land in her latest report, Making difficult decisions: Mining the conservation estate.
Dr. Wright says the current law gives mining an access advantage over other commercial uses. “As it stands the law sets a lower threshold for mining operations to gain access to conservation land than it does for other commercial operations such as guided tours.
“Although the government has continued to exempt Schedule 4 land from mining there is still another 60% of the conservation estate that is not on that schedule.
“Not all of that land has high conservation value and there is certainly an argument to mine some of these areas provided the decision is made transparently, that mining pays its way fairly and that there are overall gains for conservation.
“I have also recommended that decisions on access are left with the Conservation Minister and not shared with the Minister of Energy and Resources.
“Joint decision making is at odds with a basic principle of good governance, namely that the power to make a decision should be aligned with the accountability for the outcome of that decision.”
The report also recommends more consistent rules for all commercial access to conservation land, increased transparency and the inclusion of ecological areas into Schedule 4.
The seven recommendations in the report are:
1. Parliament does not support legislation that requires decisions on access to public conservation land for mining to be made jointly by the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Energy and Resources.
2. The Minister of Energy and Resources and the Minister of Conservation introduce legislation to ensure that all proposals for access to the conservation estate for commercial uses can only be granted if consistent with the purpose for which the land is managed.
3. The Minister of Conservation ensure that mining operations on public conservation land provide a net conservation benefit as well as compensating for the damage they cause.
4. The Minister of Conservation directs officials to develop a nationally consistent framework and guidelines for evaluating applications for mining on public conservation land and setting access conditions.
5. The Minister for Conservation improves public access to information about mining on public conservation land by making relevant information readily available on the internet.
6. The Minister of Conservation ensures that all significant applications for access to conservation land be publically notified and that ‘significant’ be defined so it applies consistently to all conservancies.
7. The Minister of Conservation adds all ecological areas to Schedule 4 unless there is a good reason for excluding some.
The full report is available here
Dr. Wright discusses the report in a youtube interview here