[Sitting date: 21 March 2012. Volume:678;Page:1145. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the
Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement, “I am not going to do something silly with the Department of Conservation estate”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister)
Eugenie Sage: Would allowing foreign-owned Bathurst Resources Ltd to dig up and destroy around 200 hectares of distinctive habitats on conservation land on the
Denniston Plateau to mine coal be “doing something silly” with our conservation land?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member is characterising incorrectly what might happen on the
Denniston Plateau. The company in question has resource consent, as I understand it, from a historical consent that is there, but an access agreement may be required. If that is required and the Minister of Conservation grants that, then that will be publicly notified. As part of all of that process, the company would be expected to follow the high standards for mining on conservation land.
Eugenie Sage: Well, if the Prime Minister has said that that access application will be publicly notified, why has he allowed the Minister of Conservation to back down on her promise made in 2010 that “significant applications to mine on public land should be publicly notified”—the Minister who has said that the Bathurst Resources application will not be publicly notified?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister is not backing down from her assurances. That was made as part of the schedule 4 stocktake process in July 2010. The proposed changes are now being considered as part of the wider review of the Crown Minerals Act. It would be my expectation that once that law is passed, that will be exactly the case: when there is mining activity undertaken on the conservation estate, it will be publicly notified. But as I said to the member earlier, in the case of Bathurst Resources and its consent for the
Denniston Plateau, that is a historical consent that has already been granted.
Eugenie Sage: Does he accept that his plans to officiate at the opening of Bathurst Resources’ new head office this evening may send a message that the company’s access application to the Department of Conservation, which has not yet been granted, should be granted?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. What it does show is that as Prime Minister of New Zealand I support the creation of jobs in New Zealand. I am supportive of those who want to undertake mining and exploration activity in New Zealand, providing they do it in a way that balances both the economic advantages and the environmental responsibilities that come with that. In my opinion, if I did not go to visit companies that have either resource consent applications pending or access consents pending, I would not be visiting many companies in New Zealand.
Eugenie Sage: Is it commonplace for the Prime Minister to officiate at events of companies that have controversial applications that are before the courts and before another Minister in his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is the member’s characterisation that it is controversial; I do not see it as controversial. I do officiate at lots of companies around New Zealand, as I
support the economic development of New Zealand. It is part of my ministerial activities, which are publicly listed each and every week. I personally, for one, will be proud to be at Bathurst Resources tonight as the company looks to expand its economic activities in New Zealand. I will leave the member to be standing out the front in the rain, protesting—as the Greens always do.
Eugenie Sage: How many more mining companies will the Prime Minister encourage to mine conservation land before the Government amends the Crown Minerals Act, and acts on its July 2010 promise to allow significant applications to mine on conservation land to be publicly notified?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It would help if the member paid attention in question time. As I have said all the way through, that was a historical—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: Point of order. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was not a gratuitous attack on the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister attacked the questioner for no particular reason, by saying that she was not listening. She was clearly listening and she was trying to engage in the debate. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members should not be commenting on a point of order. I think the member’s characterisation of his colleague’s question is perhaps a little overly pure, because I certainly heard some innuendo in the question put to the Prime Minister. I mean, the member saw me—where I believed the member had asked a very straight question, I pulled the Prime Minister up when he started to comment on what the member should do. On this occasion I felt the question did contain innuendo. Although I would not want the Prime Minister to go any longer down that track, I think members need to try to avoid—if they do not wish to get that kind of response from a Minister—putting innuendo into a question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me spell it out again. As part of the schedule 4 process that took place in July 2010, the Government made a commitment that it would change the Crown Minerals Act. In changing the Crown Minerals Act, we made it clear that, going forward, future mining on conservation land would be publicly notified. That law change has not taken place yet. In the case of Bathurst Resources, the
Denniston Plateau is part of a historical consent. So if the member is asking me whether I am going to visit companies that have historical consents, well, to the best of my knowledge I do not have any of those in my diary. But I do not really know; I will have to go and check that, if she is really that concerned. But in future, for companies that want to mine on the conservation estate once the Crown Minerals Act is amended, then the applications will be publicly notified.
Eugenie Sage: I seek leave to table a 2-minute, 35-second video produced by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of the landscapes, habitats, and species of the
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.