A decision to allow extensive mining in the Karangahake Gorge amidst allegations of no public consultation is sending shockwaves as far as Tauranga.
The Hauraki District Council issued resource consent for New Talisman Gold Mines to mine behind the iconic Karangahake Rail Trail- between Waihi and Paeroa.
Karangahake Gorge on State Highway 2.
Coupled with an ‘Authority to Enter and Operate’ from the Department of Conservation in August, the company can begin its bulk sampling and trial mining programme; mining about 600 tonnes of ore a month.
The decision has outraged communities and iwi due to a lack of official public consultation before the approval.
Many people believe it should not have been given the go-ahead.
Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges says the government has ensured the standards and process around approval are more rigorous; meaning any exploration through to mining work has to be done at the highest health and safety standards.
The Tauranga MP says with any energy and resources decision there needs to be a distinct balance between environment and economic benefits.
“There needs to be a balance in conservation values and people enjoyment of recreation area. But also ensuring where appropriate looking at strong economic opportunities that mean high paid jobs for our region.
“The Waihi area through to Karangahake has a very strong and proud history of mining.”
Simon says if it’s simply exploration then it will be “just going up for some rock samples”.
“And more often that doesn’t result in any mining and they do it over a big area. By the time they get around to a mining permit it becomes a much smaller area and so a lot of the concerns become much smaller.”
Tauranga resident Jo Wills is “aghast” this has happened so quickly in an area she calls an environmental treasure for the region and New Zealand.
“This is a voting issue as far as I am concerned. This is a total slap in the face to Kiwis in the Coromandel, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
“The gorge is an absolute treasured environment that we love going to every chance we get to hike and enjoy the diversity of the place, we’ve even seen a native owl there once, which is such a rare sighting.”
Coromandel Watchdog spokesperson Ruby Powell says the consents should not have been granted for an area that historically has suffered drastic pollution from mining and is now recovering and regenerating.
The Rail Trail is listed as one of the 14 ‘Wonders of New Zealand’ on the 100 per cent Pure New Zealand website.
“Today the area has a sustainable economy developing from people coming to enjoy the natural environment with many DOC walks and the Hauraki Rail Trail winding through the Karangahake Gorge,” says Ruby.
“We have had pledges of support from all over the globe of people wanting to support us, locals and iwi in our bid to save the gorge and we will use all peaceful means available to do so.”
Ngati Tamatera Iwi spokesperson Winn Brownlee says local iwi strongly oppose mining in Karangahake.
“Talisman Gold did come to see me and we objected to the mine, just as our forebears did.
“They shouldn’t be touching anything close to our [river] as there is no guarantee that they’re not going to pollute our waterways.”
A social media and mass emailing campaign is asking candidates standing for the Coromandel Electorate to take a stance on mining in the Karangahake Gorge.
There is a protest planned for Sunday, September 14 at 3pm and public meeting for September 16 at 6pm in the Paeroa War Memorial Hall.
Calls to Hauraki District Council chief executive Langley Cavers and Coromandel MP Scott Simpson are yet to be returned.