The suggestion from Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee that the government is planning to investigate mineral potential on conservation land should be regarded as an opportunity rather than a threat.
Australia’s mineral resources are often cited as one of the reasons its economy is so much stronger than ours. But, we do have mineral resources, the problem is getting to them because many are under conservation land.
There are obviously competing objectives here but there is scope to explore how economic development objectives could be better reconciled with other land values.
There is the potential for more flexible arrangements that do not undermine conservation and environmental objectives.
The government made a small step towards this earlier this year with the Oteake Conservation Park which lies between North and Central Otago. It shows how it might be possible to mine a small area while safeguarding the rest.
When the park was formed an area of 195 hectares over a lignite reserve was excluded, leaving 64,805 hectares in the conservation estate.
That is a tiny amount of land which might be able to be mined while leaving a large area protected.
When he announced this, Conservation Minister Tim Groser said there were no immediate plans to mine the deposit but it could yield liquid fuels equivalent to New Zealand’s transport requirements for 15 to 20 years