Background

Consent

New Talisman Gold Mines have apparently obtained all required approvals to undertake mining related activities in the Karangahake area. This includes consents issued by the Hauraki District Council, Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation. None of the consent applications were notified and approval was granted without community consultation.  An independent planning review of the Hauraki District Council (HDC) assessment report noted the following areas of concern:

  1. The proposal to carry out exploration involves bulk sampling by extraction of 10,000 – 20,000m3 by non-notified consent. This exceeds the permitted activity standard of 500m3 per 100ha. This is between 20 and 40 times the standard that forms the threshold where the Plan considers the effects to be minor or less than minor.
  2. The location of the work is within:
    1. Conservation Zone (Indigenous Forest) setting the context for trampers and sight seers to make excursions into an area of natural and historic heritage to enjoy peaceful natural setting.
    2. K Gorge Heritage Area affecting a Cat C Heritage Item – the Talisman Mine itself.  The decision accepts preservation is not an option as workings modified the archaeological values in 1980s begging the question of the purpose of its classification and current heritage value, and the contribution they make to the appreciation of the heritage area in a natural setting.
    3. Significant Natural Area (on basis affected sites are already modified) but overlooking the contribution the natural values make to the enjoyment of the heritage precinct (area) and amenity for people visiting to enjoy its recreational and educational value.
  3. The activity status of the proposal overall is non-complying, yet the analysis fails to analyse the extent to which activities and effects exceed the levels provided for and therefore downplays the significance of individual effects as well as cumulative effects. For instance, removal of the material being stockpiled for analysis off site involves up to 10 heavy truck movements per day over two years (LONGER TERM HIGH INTENSITY). The decision did not consider the impact or effects of this when compared with standard that provides for removal of bulk samples involving the same number of heavy truck movements over 5 days (SHORT DURATION HIGH INTENSITY) or light vehicle movements over say one year (Low intensity shorter term).
  4. Volume of earthworks is Discretionary Activity.
  5. Signs required are non complying and are of a type that are discordant elements providing a form of visual pollution in a natural setting visited for its educational recreational and heritage values in a natural setting.
  6. Use of hazardous substances is non complying.
  7. Amenity effects vibration, blasting restricted activity although considered in the report as being infrequent and therefore minor effect nevertheless introduces discordant elements into a natural setting.

You can read a copy of the HDC assessment decision here.
Additional legal investigation into the Department of Conservation assessment and options for addressing concern over the consents is ongoing. Protect Karangahake is committed in the first instance to work on all possible options for resolving concerns with the consenting agencies involved. Legal action such as that recently begun against the Hauraki District Council will only be considered if other solutions are not viable for preventing the mining occurring.
Protect Karangahake will keep you updated.

Schedule 4

Schedule 4 refers to Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act. This is a list of New Zealand conservation land and marine areas that have special protection from mineral exploration and related activity as a result of a both Government and Private Members Bill in 1997 and Order in Council made in 2008. The Karangahake area is not currently included in Schedule 4.

Why do we want Karangahake Gorge to be classified as Schedule 4?

Schedule 4 is a land classification of a ‘high value conservation area’. If we want to protect Karangahake in the long term we think that one of the first steps is to make sure it’s value is recognised.
Unfortunately the Schedule 4 legislation isn’t as strong as it once was – when it was first written Schedule 4 mean absolutely no mining, and now only prohibits mining activities on the surface.  We are confident once we get a better government the Schedule 4 legislation will be properly reinstated.
Any other land classification is more open to allowing mining interests to gain licences and permits to mine.

Is Schedule 4 listing permanent?

Unfortunately no. As much as we would like to see a line in the sand that states certain precious areas in New Zealand will remain untouched by mining interests, the actual legislation does not offer this protection. At the whim of the Minister of Conservation and Minister of Energy any conservation land can be removed from Schedule 4.  Although they are supposed to consult with interested or affected parties, they are not obliged to take those concerns into final consideration. In affect it is community groups that monitor the conservation estate and call these two ministers to account for their actions if any piece of Schedule 4 land is to be de-classified.

What can you do?

We all need the special areas of New Zealand to be fully protected from exploitation – consistent with the founding legislation that created the Department of Conservation. New Zealand has inconsistent rules around this protection, mining has an easier road to gain access for its purposes than any other activity, save tourism.
This situation can only be changed at the political level, your activism can change this situation. Read more about how you can become involved on the 2 Precious 2 Mine website, or contact your member of parliament, as without your involvement our special areas will slowly be eroded by mining interests.

New Talisman Gold Mines
New Talisman Gold Mines (formerly known as Heritage Gold NZ Ltd) holds the current consent to begin mining related activity in the Karangahake area. Cited on the internet as one of the worst performing stock options on the New Zealand Exchange by the National Business Review the company appears to have limited cash reserves to mitigate any environmental incidents.
Protect Karangahake is concerned that should mining activity commence there is little resolve to ensure New Talisman Gold Mines is able to be held to account should an adverse incident occur. The Karangahake Gorge is an area of continued economic growth from tourism activity and the Ohinemuri River is a source of recreation opportunities and water for the agricultural industry. The river also drains into the Hauraki Gulf the site of numerous aquaculture industries. Damage to this environment in the event of mining incident could have far reaching and costly impacts. Not far from Karangahake Mountain, New Zealand tax payers were required to fund the $22.5 million dollar remediation of the Tui Mine site when the mining company involved went bankrupt and walked away from the site after years of operation. Although this is a different type of operation, the question must be asked: Does the risk justify the decision to line the pockets of a few?