16 Apr 2024

Shane Jones announces easier coal mine consenting

4:47 pm on 16 April 2024
New Zealand First MP Shane Jones

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Resources Minister Shane Jones has announced changes to coal mine consenting he says reduce barriers to extraction and bring it into line with other types of mining.

The government's first Resource Management Amendment Bill, to be introduced next month, will make changes to the Resource Management Act, freshwater environmental standards, and the National Policy Statements for Freshwater Management and Biodiversity.

It will remove additional controls for coal mining introduced by Labour that were set to end the consenting pathway for existing thermal coal mines from 31 December 2030.

Jones, in a statement, said the government's planned changes would ensure New Zealand's access to locally sourced coal so processors would "not be forced to rely on imported coal to meet their needs".

He said the impacts of extracting coal were "similar, if not the same, as those occurring in mining other minerals" and the changes would enable a wider range of consent applications for coal mining.

"Coal is a small but mighty part of New Zealand's productive output and makes a significant contribution to regional economies," he said.

"On the West Coast, coal extraction provides for the families of 280 workers at Stockton Mine which produces around 80 percent of our $300 million in sought-after premium coal exports, used in international steelmaking."

"Harnessing the economic opportunities of our mining sector, including our extensive coal resources, will be crucial to the economic prosperity of New Zealand and to ensuring we have a secure supply of fuels and minerals to keep our economy growing."

He said the government was not removing controls for coal mining in specific locations such as land excluded under the Crown Minerals Act, or removing the "robust environmental protections that all mining is subject to".

"Resource consent applications for coal mining will remain subject to the gateway tests and the Effects Management Hierarchy which requires adverse effects to be avoided, minimised, remedied, offset or compensated for.

"Look, I'm not spreading coal dust on anyone's porridge," he said. "All we've done is change the law so that coal mining has the same rights as other industries to secure a resource consent in the context of managing the effects of coal mining on the host environment.

"I've had a gutsfull of the New Zealand mining industry being stigmatised, marginalised, demonised. This industry is a legitimate component of a modern New Zealand economy. This industry is going to be a key contributor to the journey of decarbonisation with the many minerals that we have in New Zealand."

He said none should doubt the government's willingness to simplify the process and incentivise investment in lower-emissions alternatives like wind and solar power, but "I gotta remind you, as we stand here this week, this month, we are burning Indonesian coal".

"How come it's good to import all the coal from Indonesia but somehow you want us to be purer than Caesar's wife and not develop our own coal industry? Nah, I don't agree with that."

The government expects the bill to be passed before the end of the year.

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