How Watchdog Protected Coromandel
Conservation Land & Coast From Mining
The Crown Minerals Act 1991 was amended in 1997 to say that mining could not occur on all conservation land and coast, and most off shore islands north of the Kopu-Hikuia Road. This Amendment arose directly out of the public campaign of opposition to mining on the Coromandel Peninsula begun by Coromandel Watchdog over 15 years earlier.
In the early eighties a wave of prospecting applications began which culminated in most of the Coromandel Peninsula being under prospecting license. (click the map to the left to see larger image) Local communities and environmental groups were under siege, as they tried, on a case-by-case basis, to defeat or impose stricter conditions on scores of these license applications that came before the Planning Tribunal.
An application was made by Spectrum Resources Ltd for an underground mining license in the conservation estate near Waiomu on the Thames Coast. This application went before the Planning Tribunal but was only defeated when Helen Clark, as Minister of Conservation, refused access under the newly passed Conservation Act, before the Tribunal could make its decision.
It became clear that the community could not sustain this opposition, and that amendments to the laws relating to access on to Crown land for prospecting and mining were needed. By this time, the Bolger National Government was in power and it was unlikely that they could be persuaded to amend the law, although Christine Fletcher indicated she would support such a change.
Denis Tegg of Coromandel Watchdog drafted a Private Member’s Bill which prohibited all prospecting and mining on all of the conservation estate on the Coromandel Peninsula north of Te Aroha. Denis and Mark Tugendhaft as a delegation from Watchdog then approached Christine Fletcher with the draft bill and discussed with her whether she would be prepared to sponsor it. She thought that the bill would have more chance of success it was sponsored by someone else and so we then approached Labour MP Judith Tizard, who readily agreed.
Almost immediately the bill won a Private Member’s Ballot, and was introduced into Parliament in June 1995. It was referred to a Select Committee after a massive lobbying effort by Watchdog supporters. Somewhere in the region of 1000 self-composed letters were sent to key MPs and Ministers. Jonathan Hunt said that the time that it was the largest lobbying letter-writing campaign on a bill he had ever seen. (click image to see results of nationwide UMR opinion poll in 1995)
The Select Committee had hearings in Wellington, Auckland, and Thames and several hundred submissions were lodged. The Thames Coromandel District Council strongly supported the bill in its submission.
Parliament at the time was finely balanced and the National Government, fearing that the Tizard Bill might pass in spite of its opposition, decided to introduce its own Bill. This culminated in the Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act, including the Fourth Schedule, and the reference to access for prospecting or mining being severely restricted north of the Kopu-Hikuai Road. At the time Watchdog believed this was an unfortunate compromise as there were areas of great natural beauty and with special conservation values south of the Kopu-Hikuai Road which were equally deserving of protection. However Watchdog supporters were exhausted from the campaigning and the compromise Amendment was generally accepted as the best that could be achieved at the time.
From The Archives…
here are interesting articles and flyers from the 1980’s and 1990’s.