PO Box 2 Blackball

Paul Maunder's blog


Conservation estate

Reality Check

Last Saturday evening’s concert by Porirua orchestra. Virtuoso Strings, was an absolute delight. Mainly PI and Maori young people (with some Pakeha and Asian) from Cannons Creek, tackled the European classics, added some more popular refrains and generally charmed the Greymouth audience, for this was culture as it should be; surprising, inclusive, diverse, communal, skilled, and free. This was a hopeful glimpse of the future.

How different from the current hysteria of Coast extractivists, fuelled by testosterone and arrogance, can of diesel in hand, doing doughnuts on the political landscape with regard to their having access to conservation land. How tired I have become of the born and bred mantra; its attempt to silence diversity and above all, its lack of reality.

The extractive industries have not actually developed the Coast, which, after 150 years with extraction as its economic base, languishes as an economic backwater with a sparse population of 30,000 people.

As for the supposed villainy of the Greens, they had nothing to do with the coal mine closures of the 1960s and 1970s, had nothing to do with the restructuring in the 1980s, were not responsible for the demise of Solid Energy, were not responsible for the Pike fiasco, were not responsible for Oceana closing down its gold mine. With regard to native logging, does anyone still think we should cut down every podocarp on the Coast?

Climate Change is a reality. Sea level rise is a reality, The role of fossil fuels in this crisis is a reality. Sixty major NZ companies (over half of NZ’s production base) signing up to a carbon neutral NZ by 2050, is a reality.

Comparing Eugenie Sage and Jacinda Adern to Hitler is politically infantile. We are heading for Trump land.

Regional Council chairperson, Andrew Robb was an isolated voice of reason when he stated that the Coast needs to be part of the solution rather than once again play the victim. The hysterical reaction to that statement belongs on the analyst’s couch rather than the political forum.

When it comes to extraction in all its forms (some of them more hunting and gathering than mining) on conservation estate in all its forms, negotiation will take place, and as local communities living beside and sometimes working on that land, we have a case to develop from within the above realities. But the boy racers should be left in the nearest cell cooling their heels.

Returning to the concert, and bringing this matter up afterward, a mate muttered, Boys with their toys – they’ve had their day. Another was less resilient: I’m wondering why I’m living here. The latter statement is worrying, for it will not be an isolated case. The vision of the extreme extractivists, that the Coast will die, could well become true – and they will be the cause.

Conservation Estate

The proposed banning of mining or grazing or any other productive activity  from DOC stewardship land is causing much gnashing of teeth and a series of scatter-brained opinions from local leaders.

We’ve suddenly had them arguing for the use of thermal coal for milk factories, hospitals and school; a switch from the usual argument that Coast coal is used for steel making and therefore innocent when it comes to CO2 emissions. And of course gold mining is a ‘must’ for the Coast economy and so is the exploration for rarer minerals. Even gravel extraction and access to rock for emergency purposes is brought into the debate. And of course there are the climate change deniers.

Arguing against them is Forest and Bird with a simpler, more fundamentalist position; this land should be left alone to regenerate and become pristine habitat for native flora and fauna. The Coast is a big area, there are only 30,000 people living here so the social cost is not great given the bigger picture. Transition the mining workforce to some other task. If it means moving off the Coast so be it. The mining workforce has always been a mobile one, for mining has never been sustainable. We need some gold for decorative and electronic purposes  but most of it is stored away somewhat meaninglessly. Rare minerals? There are more abundant supplies elsewhere in the world. What is truly valuable on the Coast is its wilderness and that is irreplaceable. So, no digging holes and leaving a mess. The community is already mobile: kids go away to school, tourism is often staffed by people on working visas, incomers are often Greenies from the north, the born and bred people are simply left over from mining and forestry. They are a past, spent force, politically irrelevant and will eventually disappear. Climate change, pollution, species loss are the planetary threats and we have to change our ways. If it means areas of social sacrifice, so be it. The species called man must pull in its head.

If the Coast leadership remain incoherent and scatterbrained it is painfully obvious who is going to win this argument.

But there is another line, which I will advocate for next week.P1040835

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