Fast-tracking shuts out communities

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Forest & Bird media release for immediate use

Forest & Bird said today that government plans to fast-track big mining projects would undermine community input into decisions and could cause major damage to their local environment.

“Big projects are backed by big companies and usually have big impacts, so it is vital that the community be fully involved in assessing them,” Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell said.

“The odds are already stacked in favour of developers with their deep pockets and big resources, so the effect of reducing community scrutiny would mean more poorly designed projects and more damage to our environment.”

Energy and Resources Minister Phil Heatley said in an interview over the weekend that the government was looking at ways of speeding up the consent process for major mining and other resource projects. Fast-tracking could be expanded from projects of national importance to include proposed developments of regional importance.

Kevin Hackwell said a fast-track system would make it much harder for community interests to become involved because they need time to raise funds for court action and to fully understand complex proposals often developed by companies over many years.

“It would be much harder for the community voice to be heard and expanding fast-tracking to a wider range of projects would undermine principles of the Resource Management Act to allow public participation in its processes,” he said.

Phil Heatley said in the interview he could understand the frustration of companies such as Bathurst Resources over the time it took to go through the resource consent process and get projects started.

Reports suggested the Australian company had initially received consents for its proposed open-cast mine on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau two years ago. But this is incorrect and Bathurst only received resource consents for its Denniston mine in August last year and the Environment Court hearing on the appeal against the consents by Forest & Bird and other organisations is due to be heard in October.

“It is crucial that Bathurst’s plans to dig up the conservation land on the Denniston Plateau should be fully and fairly examined. Denniston is a nationally important and unique environment that harbours some of our rarest animals and plants,” Kevin Hackwell said.

“If the mine goes ahead, the plateau will be destroyed forever and the coal mined from it will also add to the climate change crisis.”

“Denniston is an excellent example of why we need a full and fair process for major projects. When so much is at stake on a piece of land that is meant to be protected, it is foolish to rush into a hurried and ill-considered process for short term economic gain.”

Contact: Kevin Hackwell, Advocacy Manager, 04 8012215, 021 2278420