The Minister of Conservation is bringing in a ban on mining on conservation estate. An immediate reaction from the extractivists on the Coast, with the mayors promising to write in protest to the Minister and to the PM. I was feeling cheeky enough to knock off a draft for them.
Draft of letter to Eugenie Sage from the West Coast Mayors
First of all, congratulations. We look forward to working with the new government.
With regard to the proposed ban on new mining on conservation land we make the following submission:
In the past we would be beating out breasts, bewailing our lot and cursing environmentalists, but we realise we have now entered the 21st century. We therefore agree with you that mining has always been a volatile, environmentally damaging and precarious industry. In the history of the Coast it has provided a period of stability for a mere twenty years (from 1940 to 1960). At the moment, while coal remains in the doldrums, there are a myriad small gold mining operations, but they come and go with regularity, with often a receiver involved in the going.
Nevertheless, mining jobs are well paid and the new policy will eventually lead to job losses.
We therefore invite you and your government to make real the proposal to introduce a just transition for the workers involved. This would require:
- researching and developing sustainable industry on the Coast;
- supporting the workers as they retrain for the jobs created or being created (this support approximating the level of salary previously earned);
- establishing a vocational guidance and support office which could also service other Coast workers;
- looking at other economic models such as co-operatives;
- involving unions (and therefore the workers themselves) in this process.
The search for sustainable industries in this region is difficult but we would reinforce the already identified engineering capability; would suggest the other uses for coal (fibre, foam and filter) that Stephensons have targeted in their resource consent application for Te Kuha, be followed through to the establishing of processing facilities (while this could be expensive in terms of capital, it would be no more expensive than establishing a coal mine); follow up the horticultural opportunities identified in the previous government’s report, as well as pursuing opportunities in tourism. We look forward to the outsourcing of government services to the regions. To allay the low wage syndrome characteristic of service industries we would encourage the lifting of the minimum wage to $20 an hour as quickly as is possible and would offer our region as a region eminently suitable for a trialling of the Universal Basic Income.
The previous government’s idea of establishing a minerals institute is not useful as even a quick look at past investigations shows there is nothing of sufficient magnitude in the raw earth field of minerals for commercial mining to be feasible.
Finally, we would appreciate government assistance in researching the way in which money leaks out of the region and ways in which it might circulate here instead.
We would appreciate the opportunity to sit down with you and other ministers to discuss how the above programme could be implemented.