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article imageNew Zealand retracts plans to open up rare frog habitat to mining

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 21, 2010 in Environment
It was hoped for, but not certain until Tuesday when the government of New Zealand announced it was cancelling a controversial proposal to open up parts of conservation areas to mining.
The announcement means two endangered species of frogs, the Archey's Frog and the Hochstetters frog, will not become even more endangered. The Press reported Prime Minister John Key said "New Zealanders have spoken reasonably strongly that they actually do support the expansion of our mining and exploration activities, but they don't support them on pristine parts of the national parks, and in that regard, the Government's listened to the people.
'We've always said that we were going into this process with a genuine view of listening to New Zealanders. It wasn't a sham submission process."
Radio New Zealand reported that Key acknowledged that the more than 37,000 submissions received on the topic had made the government rethink its plans. Instead of letting mining take place on protected lands, New Zealand has decided to include another 12,400 hectares to the protected status.
However, TVNZ warned that the decision did not mean conservation lands would be protected from mining, just that the government has backed off the areas where the endangered frogs live. Other conservation areas will be surveyed, with the government setting aside $4.5 million for the surveys. Keys reminded the public that 85% of New Zealand is made up of conservation lands.
The decision to proceed with surveys pleased at least one mining company. Straterra issued a press release applauding the government's intention to partially fund mineral exploration. Straterra's acting CEO Chris Baker said “We also welcome the Government’s decision to ensure that both environmental and economic objectives are properly considered by both the Minister of Conservation and the Minister of Energy and Resources. Issues around economic, mineral and national significance need to be balanced in any mining proposal."
The areas the government was considering opening up to mining are thought to hold significant mineral resources, said a release from the Government - up to 40% of New Zealand's mineral wealth.
World Wildlife Fund New Zealand praised the move, but criticised the government for having made the proposal in the first place. Executive Director Chris Howe said “It is positive that the Government is no longer considering prospecting for minerals in high value conservation land protected in Schedule 4, and this result is to the credit of the many thousands of New Zealanders who stood up to the Government on this critically important issue. But this proposal should never have been on the table in the first place."
The Press reported the decision to not proceed with opening up the tracts of protected lands to mining has earned the New Zealand government both praise and criticism.
More about Archeys frog, Endangered species, Animal rights, Environmental conservation
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