Mine expansion threat to rare lizards - DOC

6:55 pm on 2 November 2016

A proposed expansion of the country's biggest goldmine would kill thousands of protected lizards, the Department of Conservation (DOC) says.

Oceana Gold's open pit mine at Macraes.

Oceana Gold's open pit mine at Macraes, East Otago Photo: SUPPLIED

The department gave evidence on day three of a resource consent hearing in Dunedin for Oceana Gold's extension to the Macraes mine, in East Otago.

The expansion would create a new 63ha mine pit, called Coronation North, and a 280-million tonne waste stack.

It would add three years to the life of the 25-year-old mine, which has pumped billions of dollars into the Otago economy since it opened.

The company needs resource consent from the Otago Regional Council, the Waitaki District Council and the Dunedin City Council for the expansion to go ahead.

Department of Conservation fauna technical adviser Lynn Adams speaks at a hearing into the proposed Macraes mine expansion.

Department of Conservation fauna technical adviser Lynn Adams Photo: Ian Telfer/RadioNZ

DOC technical adviser Lynn Adams said the new mining zone would destroy the seven species of lizards that lived there, including the rare Otago gecko and southern grass skink.

Ms Adams said there was no way to shift the lizards, and their reaction to bulldozers would be to run and hide.

The mine company had offered to protect and conserve two nearby blocks of land, totalling a couple of hundred hectares, but DOC said the area was not big enough and would need pest control.

DOC senior lawyer Pene Williams said the company needed to offer more to offset the damage.

DOC also objected to a proposed new Coal Creek dam.

Other submitters today described the poor state of the streams around the mine and suggested tougher conditions to protect waterways.

The company did not respond today, but earlier in the week disputed DOC's position.

Oceana Gold's lawyer, Stephen Christensen, said the firm's compensation package was comprehensive and fair.

Mr Christensen said DOC had the chance to protect Trimbells Gully when it was recommended for protection in the 1990s, but had not done so.

If the area was so valuable for conservation, it would be in the Crown's hands by now, not the company's, he said.

The hearing finishes tomorrow, but the commissioners have signalled they would prefer the parties found a compromise before they made their decision.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs