"My idea of damage is different to yours"

Last night i attended a lively debate on the mining issue in Wellington.  Two teams went head to head over the proposition: To Mine or Not to Mine? Wallace Chapman from TVNZ's Back Benches programme faced the challenge of keeping the lively crowd under control. It had a great traditional town meeting feeling about it. The atmosphere was energised and  the room was overflowing.

Speaking on the pro-mining side was mining advocate Straterra Spokesperson Chris Baker, Export New Zealand Executive Director Catherine Beard (ex-Executive Director of the main climate polluters lobby Greenhouse Policy Coalition) and Young Nat and university debater Nick Cross.

Speaking for conservation were Wellington conservationist Rachel Anderson-Smith, Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei and Forest and Bird conservation advocate Quentin Duthie. Rachel is the daughter of noted conservationist Kevin Smith who died in 2005.

Rachel told the audience that her father was involved in the compromise that established Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act, allowing miners to access most public conservation land, but setting aside some of the most precious parts in Schedule 4 so they would never be mined.  She argued that the Government had broken the truce between the mining industry and the conservation movement.

Late, mining lobbyist, Chris Baker stood up, responding to a question from the audience by saying “my idea of damage is different to yours.” Judging by the faces and the noise that followed, “No bloody kidding” was the thought going through the minds of most in the audience.

It really came down to debate over values and the final question to Straterra’s Chris Baker was “was there anywhere you’d say no to mining.”  He said “yes,” but became vague about where that actually might be.   After the debate , Young Nat Nick Cross told me and others who had remained behind that if people wanted to protect the areas from mining or were likely to be affected by mining that they should buy the land! Never mind that we, the people of New Zealand, already own it.  Or for that matter, that the Government has set aside land for mining bought with taxpayers money, that the mining industry wasn’t willing to pay for itself.