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Brownlee to announce mining backdown

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Gerry Brownlee
Gerry Brownlee

By Peter Wilson and Kate Chapman of NZPA

Wellington, July 20 NZPA - Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee will today announce the Government's biggest backdown since taking office -- plans to mine protected conservation land have been scrapped.

It had proposed opening up 7000 hectares of conservation land in the Coromandel, Great Barrier Island and Paparoa National Park to prospecting for valuable minerals.

The land is protected against mining under schedule four of the Crown Minerals Act, and the proposals provoked furious opposition from the public and conservation lobby groups.

More than 30,000 submissions were made on the public discussion document the Government released -- nearly all of them opposing the proposals -- while about 50,000 people signed a Green Party petition and an estimated 40,000 marched in protest in Auckland.

Opposition parties have been waging a relentless war over it, believing the Government would lose votes if it went ahead.

The Cabinet apparently reached the same conclusion yesterday when it made its decision.

Prime Minister John Key would not say anything ahead of Mr Brownlee's press conference today, which will be held after National's caucus has been told about the decision.

NZPA learned last night that none of the three areas would be mined, and that Mr Brownlee would also announce that in future all national parks would be protected.

He is likely to say the search for minerals, one of his important economic objectives, will continue in other parts of the country which won't raise the same level of protest.

Those areas could include Crown-owned land outside the conservation estate.

Mr Key hinted at that yesterday when he said schedule four land was only one part of the equation.

"In terms of wider mineral and exploration opportunities, it's my view that they can deliver a step change in the economy," he said.

The Government has previously said that rare minerals worth many billions of dollars are in schedule four land, but that is disputed by conservation groups which say any gain would be outweighed by the damage that would be caused to New Zealand's clean, green image.

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