Environmentalists worried about prospecting in New Zealand’s South Island

Environmentalists in New Zealand are expressing concerns about the possibility of government accepting applications to prospect for minerals on conservation land across the Nelson and Marlborough regions.

Interviewed by the news site Stuff, a representative for the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand said that the government is creating “concerning expectations,” especially for foreign companies, with its decision to lift a three-year moratorium for prospecting permits on 7,828 square kilometres across the areas located on the northern part of the South Island.

The permits would allow miners to carry out to low-impact activities such as aerial surveys, geological mapping and hand sampling in areas within the Mount Richmond Forest Park, which is situated on an ultramafic mineral belt that has unusual geology and provides habitat for a number of threatened species. Exploration would also be allowed at the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes national parks and the Howard Conservation area.

But for Debs Martin, the representative for the Society, opening up that possibility is ‘crazy’ and a total contradiction of a statement made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern back in November saying that there would be no new mines on conservation land.

Approached by Stuff, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said that the timing of the moratorium ending was "unfortunate," but she added that a prospecting permit issued by the Petroleum and Minerals division of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment does not guarantee that her office would grant access to conservation land.