Wellington, July 19 NZPA - The Government is expected to tomorrow announce a back-down on mining in conservation land, in the wake of furious protests.
A decision announcing the proposals was delayed from today to allow National MPs to see the plans, though the Government has decided which areas to open up to mining.
It had been proposed that 7000 hectares of conservation land in the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park be removed from schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act, which protects it from mining, so valuable minerals could be extracted.
More than 30,000 submissions were made on a consultation document about the proposal, nearly 50,000 people signed a Green Party-organised petition against it, while an estimated 40,000 marched in protest in Auckland.
Prime Minister John Key said the decision would not be made public until tomorrow afternoon to give the rest of the National MPs time to look over it at their weekly caucus meeting tomorrow morning.
Television reports foresaw a complete back-down on the mining plans.
Mining on Great Barrier Island, the Coromandel and in Paparoa would not go ahead, TV3 said.
Any land turned into a national park in the future would automatically be put into schedule four, TV3 reported.
TV One news said it expected mining in Paparoa to go ahead, but nowhere else.
A spokesman for Mr Key told NZPA he could not confirm whether the reports were accurate.
In his weekly post-Cabinet press conference today Mr Key would not reveal the chosen areas.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, but you've only got one more sleep to go."
Asked if the Government has listened to submissions, he said it had listened to both sides of the debate.
There was a enormous economic wealth tied up in schedule four land but most of that was ruled out by the Government early on, Mr Key said.
There were also opportunities for mineral and exploration wealth outside of the schedule, including iron sands and lignite, he said.
"Schedule four is one part of the equation...in terms of the wider mineral and exploration opportunities in New Zealand, it's my view that they can deliver a step change."
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said she was waiting for the decision and was particularly concerned about possible mining in Paparoa and on the Coromandel.
"For the Government to promise it won't mine in national parks and then to do so is a breach of its election promise and shows the Government cannot be trusted," she said.
The Coromandel was the jewel in the crown of the Auckland isthmus area and deserved to be protected.
"The Government will be biting off a very big fight if they decide to mine in the Coromandel and in our national parks because the community has said loud and clear it will not tolerate our national parks being desecrated like this."
Labour leader Phil Goff said New Zealanders strongly opposed mining in national parks, Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel.
The Government was only the guardian of New Zealand's conservation estate and it should not be exploited by overseas mining companies at a long term cost to New Zealanders, he said.
"The economic benefits touted by John Key in this mining issue have been massively overstate and we look forward to Mr Key admitting he got it wrong."