Growing up in South Africa, we ate a great deal of mutton. It was cheap & available. I knew nothing of steak and salmon until I got to Vancouver, where salmon is cheap & available. Yet I still long for the gamey taste of mutton. I found it once in Mexican Hat in the Navajo region of New Mexico and Colorado. But no luck here in Vancouver. Although the local ethnic food-court down the road serves a fine lamb cutlet with rice, cooked by the Greek owners. Enjoying a good plate of rice and lamb yesterday, I wondered about New Zealand mining.
A quick search revealed that there is a great deal of controversy in New Zealand over mining. Let us take a further look as the place is small, green, and whatever they decide may portend the future for the rest of us. First I found the Straterra, Natural Resources of New Zealand site. I am always suspicious when the writing is convoluted and inept as in this introductory statement:
Straterra is an incorporated society offering a collective voice for the NZ minerals and mining sector, from small firms to large enterprises. Our membership represents 84% by value of New Zealand’s mineral production (except for oil & gas and geothermal) and a large percentage of the exploration effort. Straterra works closely with the petroleum sector, and has links to geothermal. Launched in 2008 at the annual conference of the NZ Branch of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM), Straterra now has three full-time staff working from a well appointed office with street-front presence in the Wellington CBD. We are committed to the Government’s agenda for Green Growth, which includes environmental and social responsibility, and to the sector making an economic contribution to NZ, and to the NZ brand. Key issues facing the resource sector in New Zealand are access to land for exploration, and the conditions under which access is allowed. Straterra participates in government policy processes, and carries out advocacy and other functions, including government relations. Straterra is building membership and an industry hub in Wellington providing in-house policy expertise and a meeting venue in the Capital for members. We believe in engaging with others in a fair, reasonable and transparent way, to promote informed debate on resource sector issues.
No doubt I will never be invited to the “well appointed office with street-front presence.” Where do they come up with this stuff?
They folk at Straterra are serious. This is the basis of their concerns:
Mining is also an essential industry. Minerals are integral to every aspect of our lives. They are a direct or indirect component of everything New Zealanders consume, whether produced locally or sourced from abroad. As the saying goes – “if you haven’t grown it, you have to dig it!” Many mines in New Zealand are quarries, and most of these produce aggregates for roading and construction. One would be excused for thinking that mining in NZ should be celebrated and encouraged, as integral to our way of life in the 21st Century, as benefiting the economy and society, and carried out in an environmentally responsible way. Sadly, it is increasingly the case that the resource debate in New Zealand is mired in misinformation. A campaign is underway against: petroleum, coal and lignite; and minerals and energy development in sensitive areas, such as the oceans, and public conservation land.
Is New Zealand so small that they have to mine in sensitive areas like the oceans and on public conservation land?
Straterra seems to have gotten into a nasty debate with Green MP Julie Anne Genter. See this link for an interchange that would be hilarious and worthy of Gilbert & Sullivan were it not real. Bernie Napp, a senior policy analyst with Straterra writes to the honorable MP.
I would like to correct Green MP Julie Anne Center (sic) on her bizarre claim that no mining town in New Zealand has ever enjoyed benefits (Mataura split on mining benefits, January 25). In 2010 the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report- ed that the median wage for a mining employee, including in oil and gas, was $57,320 in 2008, compared to the New Zealand median of $33,530. It is wrong to use Waihi as an example of a mining town because people in that industry in Waihi also live at Waihi Beach, Katikati and elsewhere. Consider also the benefits to users of resources. As matters stand, New Zealand gas and coal are essential inputs into the dairy, wood and timber processing, horticulture and other industries. Indeed, if there were no energy and minerals, whether imported into or produced in New Zealand, there would be no hospitals, no transport, no schools, no electricity, no food, no clothing, no phones. Seen this way, the benefits of mining to society are infinite.
For Mr Napp to imply that Waihi Beach and Katikati could be considered mining towns was a bit of a stretch when the obvious reason why some miners may choose to live in those places is because they would prefer not live in the actual mining town of Waihi. I challenge Mr Napp to name some prosperous New Zealand towns that have achieved average to above prosperity directly through mining coal or lignite. Mr Napp also tried to mislead us by exaggerating the incomes that could be expected from lignite mining by including those from the much wealthier gas and oil industries.
New Zealand is a well-endowed country, with potentially large quantities of gold, coal, lignite, ironsands, phosphate and petroleum. The mining, quarrying and petroleum sectors already make up between eight and 10 per cent of New Zealand’s export earnings and contribute 1.1 per cent to New Zealand’s GDP52. The sectors’ contribution to GDP could easily be increased to over three per cent within the next 10 years, with the contribution to export earnings reaching well past 10 per cent. This increase would grow New Zealand’s economy, raise labour productivity and help ensure New Zealanders’ aspirations can be realised.
The environmental impacts of minerals and petroleum extraction are more manageable than many New Zealanders think, provided world-class checks and balances are in place. The current checks and balances have shortcomings. IPENZ thus recommends a number of changes including having separate legislation for mining and petroleum, a review of capabilities and funding for oil spill responses, public disclosure of performance and the addressing of skill shortages.
The Government must take the leadership role by setting and enforcing relevant policies and world-class standards and by adequately resourcing regulators with technical expertise.
As New Zealanders we should demand the public release of performance data on the regulatory system and regulated entities. This will ensure public confidence in our checks and balances and that extraction activity does not compromise our environment’s quality.