Minister: Tourism wins over mining on DOC land

Conservation land should be protected for tourism and not be made available for mining, says the new Minister of Conservation, Eugenie Sage.

Eugenie Sage

Sage confirmed yesterday that the new government would strengthen the protection for public conservation land by making it off-limits for new mining.

The announcement was made as part of the Speech from the Throne at Parliament, which outlined the government’s policy and legislative proposals.

“Public conservation lands are set aside as places for nature to thrive and for New Zealanders and visitors to enjoy,” said Sage.

“Mining, especially open-cast mining runs counter to that. It destroys indigenous vegetation and habitats, permanently changes natural landscapes and can create sizeable waste rock dumps with a risk of acid mine drainage polluting waterways.”

Tourism on the West Coast was now responsible for more jobs than the mining sector and New Zealanders expected to see conservation lands and indigenous plants and wildlife protected from being dug up by bulldozers and diggers.

“It’s crucial that we protect the very thing that draws visitors – unequalled beech and rimu forests, river valleys and a network of huts and tracks,” said Sage.

“Places like the West Coast and Coromandel have diversified their economies on the back of their stunning natural beauty and landscapes, and the warmth of local communities. This government is committed to helping workers in these regions make a just transition from mining.”

Sage said New Zealand needed to build a sustainable, modern, clean green economy.

“New mines on our protected lands are not going to take us there. Coal mining adds to the climate crisis and new mines generally have a 15-year lifespan. Once the coal is gone, the jobs are gone and so is the unique environment of places like the West Coast – which is the basis of a sustainable economy and long-term jobs.”

The Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement with Labour included a goal of increasing funding for the Department of Conservation.

The government wants to raise $75m a year from a $25 border levy on tourists for its proposed Tourism and Conservation Infrastructure Fund, $30m of which would be used to fund conservation.

“We have a biodiversity crisis with 4000 of our native plants and wildlife threatened with, or at risk of extinction. The places they live need protection,” said Sage.

“The Department of Conservation has been under-resourced for the last nine years. We need to scale up its capacity.”

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