Covid 19 has changed a lot of things, for a lot of people, and indeed the changes happening in an international context are still rolling on.
Here in Aotearoa, we have been comparatively lucky; and as we move out of the pandemic panic, blinking as our eyes adjust to looking forward again, we are presented with a range of opportunities and conundrums.
As the greedy grab for the shiny baubles that they hope will preserve their wealth, the price of gold increases and the multinational machine grinds back into action, multinational mining companies poised over our homes, ready with the promise the wealth, only to come in and destroy our environment, ravage our communities and leave us with a toxic legacy of waste.
Given all that we know of how our systems in New Zealand work, we know that the Industry will be lobbying, will be doing what they can to leverage the crisis of C19 to enable them to pillage more wealth from our earth.
For years we have been told that it is fine that these permits for prospecting and exploration are granted with zero public input, that the millions and millions invested by multinationals in looking, even in our most protected conservation land, for gold is alright, because IF it ever got to the mining stage, then we would for sure get a say, there are all these checks and balances in the legislation to protect us, and we can have a say.
Only now, maybe we can’t. Now they are talking about a new fast tracking legislation that would enable some consents, for projects that would help build the economy, provide jobs etc. Legislation that would completely shut out the public, and relegate the community to being a spectator in their own area. That would shut mana whenua out of the process. A process where a decision would be made within a 30/50 day timeframe by an ‘expert’ consenting panel, although, from the Minister’s own media release, once a project is referred to the Panel there is a high level of certainty the resource consent will be granted.”
One wonders then, who will actually be considering these consents?! IN theory, they will all go before the Minister for the Environment, which sounds ok. They will have strict criteria that they will have to meet, which sounds good, but that depends on what that is. ANd the final thought – you may be comfortable with this Govt selecting the projects, but would you be just as comfy with a different Govt doing the selecting – cause there is an election really soon, and whomever is elected will have the ability to grant projects, without the public being able to scrutinise applications, for some 18 months!
While some may accuse those of us who have some concern for the environment in all of this of being ‘anti development’, we are far from it. In fact, we have long been advocating for Govt to support the establishment of urban mining (mining tech waste). Rather than supporting companies like Oceana Gold to continue to be able to compromise our environment while plundering our land for shiny baubles, we would love to see a town like Waihi supported to transition to urban mining
In many countries, this industry has grown rapidly, and become a major employer, for example in the US, where they are recycling some 80% of their tech waste. And yet here in Aotearoa, we are recycling less than 2% of our techwaste! We are poised not only to establish a sustainable industry, producing enough gold to satisfy our ‘need’ industry (not our greed industry – jewelery and investment) and employing many people, but also to add to our helpful neighbour role within the Pacific by taking their tech waste too.
So, we urge the Govt to tread with caution when fast tracking any projects, and we urge them not to completely remove the community’s ability to participate. Lets not squander this opportunity by rushing, by poor planning or by being pressured by industries… let’s make sure that our post Covid19 Aotearoa is focused on the life-source that is our environment, that is our greatest asset now and into the future!