Dunno that Shane Jones confined his thinking to silver, when he proposed digging up Northland to give work to the locals.
You never know what you will find until you start digging.
But iwi leaders are reported here to be divided over Jones’ suggestion that mining in Northland could be a silver bullet for solving Maori unemployment in the area.
Northland-based Labour list MP Shane Jones said mining would create job openings for low-income Maori families and he was tired of “hostile rhetoric from the greenies”.
Mr Jones said that with limited opportunities in farming or tourism, the extractive industries were the best opportunities for jobs and economic advancement for Northland Maori.
Extractive industries could cover a raft of activities, of course, including dentistry.
The region obviously needs to get something under way, because latest unemployment figures show about 6500 unemployed in Northland. Almost two-thirds are Maori.
They don’t seem to have as many readies to spend in the boozer as we do in Eketahuna North, either. The median household income in the region last year was $19,200.
It’s good to see Jones’ idea hasn’t been sunk without trace, because Alf sees a great deal of merit in it.
He is pleased to learn that Te Rarawa chairman Haami Piripi agrees with Jones, too.
Piripi said –
“As (chairmen) representing our respective runanga we’ve been obliged to explore every option that’s available to the development of our people.”
Mr Piripi said there would be numerous employment opportunities for local people. He said mining hadn’t historically been a no-no for iwi.
“As early as 1840 our ancestors mined kauri gum. We’ve moved en masse to places like Huntly to mine for coal and we’ve established our own quarries in the past. We’ve extracted sand in order to carry out public works, so mining at the lower-impact end of the spectrum is not unreasonable,” said Mr Piripi.
But Te Runanga-a-iwi o Ngati Kahu chief executive Anahera Herbert-Graves disagrees.
“There’s an initial flush of work – but mining companies bring in the expertise and we don’t have the expertise. The experience around the world is that indigenous people don’t make a lot of money out of it.”
An aeromagnetic survey of Northland has found gold, silver and copper deposits.
The gold and silver deposits in Northland alone are reported to be worth $1.53 billion.
Mrs Herbert-Graves, it transpires, grew up on a farm and was a trustee on Northland’s largest farming block in Parengarenga.
She said the return of land would lower unemployment.
“We’re terrific farmers; we’re terrific land users,” she said.
But so far as Alf can see, land ownership should not rule out mining.
It’s just a matter of the small difference between ploughing the land and digging deeper into it.