Wellington, Aug 28 NZPA - Opening the conservation estate to mining could put New Zealand's $20 billion tourism industry at risk, the Tourism Industry Association said today as opposition to the Government's decision to carry out a stocktake of valuable mineral resources increased.
Greenpeace said the mining industry should identify which areas of conservation land it was interested in mining and said it had previously indicated it wanted national parks opened up.
The warnings followed an announcement by Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee that the Government was planning a stocktake of mineral resources in conservation land protected under Schedule Four of the Crown Minerals Act.
The estimated value of untapped minerals in New Zealand has been put at about $140 billion and around 70 percent of that involves conservation land.
"We certainly have no intention of digging up the Crown's conservation estate. This is a stocktake, which is perfectly reasonable," Mr Brownlee told reporters yesterday.
Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar said New Zealand's natural scenery and landscapes were the main reason international visitors came here.
"Taking a long-term view, it may be that tourism is a more valuable and sustainable industry to New Zealand's economy than mining," he said.
Greenpeace spokesman Geoff Keey said the mining industry had expressed interest in parts of the Coromandel and Kahurangi, Paparoa and Mt Aspiring national parks in the past.
He said the land was covered by Schedule Four for a reason -- so it could not be mined.
Minerals Industry Association chief executive Doug Gordon said the Government's approach would boost the industry.
The Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand said the mining industry already had extensive powers to explore land.
Labour MP David Parker said coal and lignite mines were "enormous".
"Allowing increased mining in the DOC (Department of Conservation) estate, or allowing it at all in National Parks, is lunacy."