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Brownlee faces more questioning over mining proposals

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Gerry Brownlee
Gerry Brownlee

Wellington, May 4 NZPA - Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee faced more questioning in Parliament today over mining proposals and Cabinet papers suggesting his initial recommendations for potential mining areas spread well beyond what was eventually presented to the public.

Labour leader Phil Goff said a February Cabinet paper signed by Mr Brownlee and Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson recommended that more than 467,000 hectares of national park and protected Schedule 4 land be opened for mining exploration. Valued tourism areas such as Stewart Island and Mt Aspiring were included.

Mr Brownlee said those areas were included when a stocktake was being undertaken, but Cabinet had ruled out any mining exploration in those areas.

The area of Schedule 4 land targeted by the Government's proposal totals 7058 hectares, including Great Barrier Island, parts of Coromandel and Paparoa National Park on the West Coast.

Mr Goff asked when the Government planned to "bail out" of the vehemently-opposed Great Barrier Island and Coromandel parts of the proposal. Mr Brownlee said the public submissions process was still under way and he wouldn't prejudice that.

He told reporters this morning he hoped the more than 40,000 people who marched against the mining proposal in Auckland on Saturday had read what was being proposed -- "because I haven't heard much comment yet on the 12,000ha that we're planning to put into Schedule 4.

"I think people are just reacting to what they understand the proposal to be. It is in fact a very, very moderate and modest proposal to enable further exploration in those areas, it's not a commitment to mining in those areas, although we do want the mining sector in general to grow," he said.

Mr Brownlee rejected claims a three-week extension to the submissions process announced last week was to give the Government breathing space over the contentious issue.

"We don't need breathing space, we've got a process that's in place, there's no need to rush it so we're going to give it due consideration. I don't think extending the timeline is a bad thing at all."

He said he respected that people on Saturday's march were opposed to mining, but was cynical about whether all were there to protest against mining, saying genetic engineering and climate change signs were being waved and it may have been a good opportunity for people to air various different grievances.

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