5 May 2020

Shane Jones promises NZ First support for 'extractive' industries

7:03 pm on 5 May 2020

Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones has told West Coast councils that DOC stewardship land will be open for business if New Zealand First has any say in it after the election.

Auckland Port's days are numbered - Shane Jones

Shane Jones. Photo: RNZ / YouTube

Jones spoke to the region's mayors and chairs in a video conference meeting last week.

Council chairman Allan Birchfield said the minister had dashed any hopes of making the land available for coal or gold mining while the Green Party was part of the coalition.

"There is huge opportunity there for the coast and for the New Zealand economy and it's going to waste at the moment," Birchfield said.

He told a regional council meeting that in the 10 years to 2018, 854,000 ounces of gold, worth $2.3 billion had been recovered (from alluvial claims) on the West Coast.

In the same decade, 21-million tonnes of coal, worth $5b had been mined.

"There is so much more out there and it could be replacing the losses we are seeing in tourism," Birchfield said after the meeting.

The Greymouth Star asked Jones if there was any hope the government might carry out the long-awaited review of stewardship land, given the impact of Covid-19 on the country's economy.

"I told the mayors there was zero chance of any part of the DOC estate being open to extractive industries under the configuration of parties now in government," Jones said.

"I am immensely frustrated by the way stewardship land has been deified by the Green lobby.

"Vast tracts of it are overrun by vermin and rodents and weeds ... it was never meant to be treated as part of the core DOC estate."

That could change if New Zealand First was fortunate enough to get back into government, after the next election, Jones said.

"If we are blessed with the opportunity to create another government, NZ First will be pushing for extractive industries to occupy a very important position, post-Covid, because we have to create jobs and generate overseas income."

The conservation lobby might point to the regenerating forest that had sprung up on some stewardship land since 1987 when it was dumped on DOC because no one wanted it, the minister said.

"The people who want this land to retain its vague, indeterminate status are opposed to development and hoping the regen will solve the problem. But I've got news for them.

"If 200 to 300 New Zealanders are out of work and I am blessed with a chance to come back, we will be opening up that stewardship land to people who can set up sustainable extractive businesses and employ others."

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