Alf is by no means surprised to hear the latest grouching from Sonny Tau.
The Ngapuhi leader is insisting the Ministry of Economic Development needs to adequately consult Maori before it seeks bids from companies wanting to explore for minerals in Northland.
The ministry is consulting, of course, after announcing that, from May this year, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals intends inviting companies to take part in a competitive tender process for mineral exploration permits.
But is the consultation period sufficient?
It’s ample, actually.
But it’s not long enough for Tau.
Mr Tau says the time frame of less than a month which the ministry has given iwi and hapu, to respond to the ministry’s proposals and to make submissions, is not long enough.
This might give you the impression iwi and hapu are being given a privilege denied the rest of the community, because there is no mention of anyone else being consulted.
Not so. Local authorities are being consulted, too.
And the consultation period for iwi and hapu is exactly the same as it is for local authorities, (which – by the way – represent Maori as well as representing the rest of us).
Just to be sure the iwi were being given the same deal as local authorities, Alf checked with the ministry.
Information about the proposed tender on its website says –
Before finalising the area for the Northland 2012 competitive tender, we are consulting with iwi and local authorities in the proposed area. Our aim is to focus on areas of greatest potential, while taking into account areas of greatest sensitivity.
This consultation will inform a final decision on the area for tender. As part of that process, for example, iwi may request an amendment to the proposed tender, or that certain areas of particular importance are excluded from it.
Can’t say fairer than that, eh?
The splendid Phil Heatley, our Minister of Energy and Resources, sounded chipper about this development when he announced it.
His media statement was headed Unlocking Northland’s economic potential and said –
“A better and more productive economy is one of the Government’s four priorities this term. Northland can be a significant contributor to that growth.
“Down the track, safe, environmentally responsible mining to access our mineral wealth can provide job and growth benefits for Northland. It’s a really big opportunity for the region to get ahead,” Mr Heatley said.
The ministry website gives force to the Minister’s positive tone.
It explains that the competitive tender for mineral exploration permits in Northland is based on data acquired during an aeromagnetic survey over Northland last year.
Bids will be sought between May and November 2012, after which they will be evaluated. Exploration permits are expected to be awarded to the best bidders in February 2013 – for a period of five years (with a right of renewal for up to another five years). Companies would have to apply for a mining permit, should exploration activity be successful and identify commercially viable mineral deposits.
It’s not a matter of digging up the whole of the bloody province, by the way, although digging it all up wouldn’t do it much harm.
The areas to be excluded from exploration are Ninety Mile Beach and Te Rerenga Wairua (Cape Rēinga), being land of spiritual significance to all Māori; land now known as Warawara that is of paramount importance to the hapū of Te Rarawa; land listed as unavailable for mining under Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991, including the Waipoua Forest tract and Trounson Kauri Park Scenic Reserve; and land over which permits already exist.
That’s not good enough for Tau, who says there are other areas of land which Ngapuhi want excluded from exploration permits.
He should focus more on what can be got out of the ground.
The ministry says previous studies have highlighted the potential for a wide variety of new and known mineral deposits and resources in Northland.
The two studies were part of a wider project to provide information to local and central government to lead to a better understanding of mineral resources and their potential economic benefits. The report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) illustrates that increased mineral development will bring economic benefits to the region, including increased job opportunities.
Alf has dug up lots of information about the proposed development and shares Phil’s enthusiasm.
The consultation and eventual competitive tender process follow the gathering of geological data via an airborne aeromagnetic survey conducted between February and August 2011.
The survey was conducted as a partnership between the Ministry of Economic Development, the Far North District Council, the Northland Regional Council and Enterprise Northland.
Over 13,590 square kilometres of the region have been surveyed and 77,600 kilometres of data have been collected. ”
The data are bound to have a wide range of applications in fields such as geological mapping, geothermal exploration, forestry, agriculture, horticulture, geological hazard assessment, and engineering and construction investigations.
For minerals exploration it provides valuable information on the geological structure and possible locations of mineral deposits.
Background information available from the ministry will tell Tau –
* An exploration permit does not include mining rights – any company that wishes to start mining will have to make a new permit application, which is evaluated by New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals.
* All exploration and mining activity is subject to strict health and safety requirements (under the Health and Safety in Employment Act) and any environmental requirements (as set by a regional authority under the Resource Management Act consenting process).
* Land owner access arrangement(s) is also required before any exploration or mining activity can proceed.
But Tau wants more time to think about it.
According to the Radio NZ report, he said –
… mineral exploration is a big issue for Northland and the ministry needs to realise that Maori are a people who expect to be properly consulted, not just at the last minute.
Tau’s idea of “the last minute” might not be the same as yours.
His concerns were reported only this morning by Radio New Zealand.
This suggests it has taken him a bloody week to react to the announcement on 2 March.
That’s when the clock started ticking.
No wonder he wants more time. He is not a bloke who does things in a hurry.