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Pure anger over government mining plan

Mar 31st, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

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By Owen Winter, Michelle Cooper and Sam Guzzo

TO THE chant of “you say mine, we say ours” more than 400 people protested outside Parliament in response to the National Party’s new proposals to mine conservation land.

Yesterday’s protest was organised by Joni Bridges largely using the social networking site Facebook and appeared to represent a broad cross-section of society with some travelling to Wellington to take part.

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FEELING BLUE: Palmerston North students Laura Hartley, left, and Rebecca Butler at the protest.

Mr Bridges said to start with only 30-40 people had put their name down to attend, but by late morning there were 330 confirmed guests.

“We are here to represent what is the first ripple in what is becoming a wave of national and international opposition. And we will stop mining.”

A poll running on NewsWire has attracted a more votes in the anti-mining camp, although the 63 per cent majority was not overwhelming.

Of the 59 respondents to the question “Should our prime conservation land be opened up for mining”, 37 answered “No, our national parks are too valuable” while 22 answered “Yes, it’s our chance to catch up to Aussie.”

Addressing the protest at Parliament were guest speakers from Forest and Bird, Greenpeace, Coromandel Watchdog , the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and MPs representing the Labour and Greens parties.

Mr Bridges said Prime Minister John Key was invited to speak but declined, and Minister of Energy and Resources Gerry Brownlee was also contacted but did not reply.

Moira Coatsworth, of Coromandel Watchdog, pointed out that the previous National government created Schedule Four, which protects the most treasured sections of national parks and conservation land and which it is now proposing to alter.

“So I say shame on this government for breaking the agreement that they were so proud of, to make a quick buck,” she added.

Diana Chan, from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said she didn’t know how she would sit around the table and explain what is happening in New Zealand to her colleagues on the committee.

She read an excerpt from a letter to the Prime Minister from Nik Lopoukhine, the chair of the World Commission of Protected Areas, which read: “The international community has long seen New Zealand as a country with strong protection of outstanding national values and a country seriously committed to biodiversity conservation, and this is now threatened.”

Green MP Metiria Turei worked the crowd by stepping up and announcing: “Kia ora, my name is Metiria Turei and I am hysterical.”

She said the protected areas in Schedule Four are our most treasured places, and essential to our national identity, and they are of the most deserving protection from mining.

“It was the people who created Schedule Four and those treasured places, and it will be the people who save Schedule Four and those precious places.”

Labour leader Phil Goff said Labour was “absolutely and unequivocally” opposed to mining in national parks.

He told the crowd these places were economically important, not for bulldozers to dig them up, but as an integral part of our $21 billion tourism industry.

He said the industry has maintained 185,000 sustainable jobs because the country has been able to use the branding 100% Pure.

He quoted an article in Economist magazine which stated “it’s not a grand branding to say 95% pure”.

Mr Bridges said he was hoping to organise a protest on a national level in the near future.

What the protesters said:

Barbara Mitcalfe, retired, Kelburn: “It’s a dereliction of duty to the ancestral tangata whenua, Te Heu Heu, who donated what is now Tongariro National Park to the nation. This generosity should not be abused. I simply don’t believe uninvasive mining is possible.”

Thijs Koning, Aro Valley: Originally from Holland, Thijs said he knows what it is like to have no nature left. “I know what it is like when we take away from nature. Nature doesn’t have a voice.”

mineKeeyGeoff Keey, Green Peace New Zealand’s Wellington-based political adviser, left: “In a world that’s struggling with climate change and conservation problems, for us to be mining coal is just shoving two fingers to the rest of the world.”

Quentin Duthie from Forest and Bird: “The main message is that some parts of New Zealand are too precious to mine.” Visit www.2precious2mine.org.nz.

Rachel Anderson-Smith, member of the Green Party and Forest and Bird, and Victoria University disabled services manager: “Protection of these areas was made possible by hundreds of thousands of ordinary people. My dad was one of them, Kevin Smith who was an adviser to the conservation minister.”

Ross Walker, Island Bay (with an “I’ll mine your face!” to John mineDuthieKey sign) and Anita Foord, Island Bay: “I wanted to dress up like a giant carrot and tell John Key ‘although your carrot is shiny it is not made of gold’,” said Anita.

Hetty Vink, member of Forest and Bird, from Tirohanga (dressed in a green bird costume): ” I call Mr Gerry Brownley a gambling man because there’s so many ifs and buts.”

Polly from Wellington, queer anti-mining group: “2-4-6-8 mine the Beehive and the state.”

Alice from Wellingtominealicen, student from Weltech studying Counselling, left with ‘stop’ sign: “This is a violation of article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi.”

Cam Sawyer (Kiwi bird costume) and Jordan Stewart (Pukeko bird costume) and Jesse Seymour (Dog -foot trot flats tee shirt) from Thames: “We wouldn’t like to see our community raped, burned and pillaged,” says Cam.

Rebecca Whale: “You say mine, we say ours.”

Joni Bridge: “We invited John Key to come. He declined. We invited Gerry Brownlee to come. He didn’t get back to us.”

Geoff Key, Greenpeace: “This is not a country that mines its national parks. It’s who we are. It’s clean and green.”

Gareth Hughes, Green Party member: “I might love my showers and lattes but I also love knowing I can go tramp with my mates whenever I want and swim in the creek.”

Jess Woods, Lyall Bay, mum: “We are here to let John Key know what a stupid idea it is.”

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