Forest & Bird today responded to Economic Development Minister Stephen Joyce's claims that opponents to the proposed Bathurst mine on the Denniston Plateau should withdraw their appeals in light of the recent job losses from Solid Energy.
Forest & Bird believes Mr Joyce is being opportunistic in deflecting the blame for the mismanagement of the Spring Creek Mine on to objectors to the proposed Escarpment Mine by Australian-owned company Bathurst Resources.
Forest & Bird says statements by Mr Joyce that opponents to the proposed Bathurst mine are “getting in the way of” potential jobs for the sacked Solid Energy workers are unfounded and mischievous.
“Mr Joyce has hit the panic button as a result of Solid Energy shedding hundreds of jobs,” Forest & Bird Conservation Advocate Nicola Toki says.
"What he is doing is a distraction from the real issue, which is that Solid Energy had 'unrealistic' coal prices built into its forecasts, which the Prime Minister admitted today."
The statement from Mr Joyce was riddled with inaccuracies, including stating that the consent had been held up for seven years, when Bathurst Resources lodged its application in late August 2010, and that the case had been to the Court of Appeal. In fact, the matter has been set down for a hearing at the Environment Court in late October.
"It is inappropriate for Mr Joyce to attempt to influence an outcome in the court."
In September 2011 Forest & Bird appealed the decision to grant consent for the Escarpment mine on the Denniston Plateau. Commissioners at the time made the decision with “considerable reservations and anguish” because the proposed mine would be “irreversibly” damaging to the unique ecology of the Denniston Plateau.
The proposed Bathurst mine would be the largest open-cast mine on public conservation land in New Zealand. In May 2010, more than 50 000 people marched up Queen Street to protest the government's suggestion to mine in national parks and other significant conservation areas.
"The idea of destroying unique habitat and wildlife has already been proved to be politically and publicly unpalatable," Nicola Toki says.
The Denniston Plateau was set aside as conservation land. Forest & Bird has been advocating for the plateau to be made into a reserve, protecting it in perpetuity.