There was a brilliant cartoon in the Weekend Herald just gone. It showed New Zealand’s conservation lands as a young damsel, dressed up in a pretty green frock and bonnet. And nearby, a lecherous, plump Gerry Brownlee, ensuring her: “there’s no reason to be scared. I won’t touch, I just want to look”.

Bollocks. The Government’s announcement yesterday that it plans to remove protection of 7,000 hectares of high value conservation land and investigate tens of thousands of hectares of additional land in due course* has revealed that Gerry has some heavy petting in mind. The damsel would be right to be distressed.

The proposals were worse than expected. They scream long term, widespread damage to biodiversity, landscape, recreation, reputation, the climate and communities.

The Minister can keep regurgitating his new favourite soundbite: “the area of land we’re talking about is the equivalent of a postcard on Eden Park.” But it depends what’s on the postcard.

Many New Zealanders
feel the same, with offers aplenty to lie down infront of bulldozers. The Government can argue the public is split 50/50 over this, but I’d wager they’re wrong. Even Banksy gets this, telling Radio New Zealand this morning that the Government is either “very brave or very stupid.”

Another significant development, which got a bit lost in yesterday’s media furore, is that the Energy Minister and the Ministry for Economic Development will now be key in all decision making over the conservation estate. This is new. It used to be that the conservation minister made decisions pertaining to conservation lands. The Government now wants to add the money-hungry branch of Government to the process.

What’s at stake with the mining proposals goes to the heart of a bigger issue, involving the general direction this Government is taking New Zealand.  Lack of vision, outdated thinking and a mindset that pits the economy against the environment is making a mockery of our reputation. We are turning into a country it will be difficult to be proud of.

It’s like we fell asleep and woke up and it’s the 80s again. The National Party’s rudimentary approach to economic development is fast consigning ‘clean green’ New Zealand to the historical dustbin. Its rip shit and bust approach to growth is destroying everything we stand for as a country.

The world is on the cusp of a new green industrial revolution because of challenges like climate change. Intelligent, canny nations will be at the forefront of the revolution and the winners will be those who understand, embrace and pioneer clean technologies. Unfortunately for New Zealand, our Government is still picking 19th century winners in a 21st century world.

*The areas that will be further investigated are:
• the Northland region;
• public conservation lands on the Coromandel Peninsula
• the Southern Coromandel volcanic zone
• parts of the Central North Island
• the Median Batholith, found in various areas of the South Island
including Rakiura National Park
• parts of the Dun Mountain Ophiolite belt
• the Tapuaenuku Complex near Kaikoura
• carbonatite rocks north of Haast River
• South Island areas with potential for mesothermal gold
• The Longwood complex in Southland.

Have your say on the proposals here.