Submissions are urgently needed from anyone around the country who wouldn’t want a mining company popping up in their big back yards.
Around 90% offshore-owned mining company, TiGa, has submitted a combined application to Grey District and West Coast Regional Council for consent to operate a garnet, ilmenite, zircon and gold mining operation on the Barrytown Flats. The company’s minority local shareholding interests include West Coast Regional Council Chair Peter Haddock.
The West Coast is no stranger to mining history, including the much promised and failed Escarpment Mine. TiGa claims it will bring 57 jobs worth around $6.6m in wages, and $27.4m in other spending. Its initial application is for a site on the Barrytown Flats operating for 12 years, with three subsequent potential mining locations nearby, and the company signalling each might be mined for up to 12 years.
Barrytown houses a quiet coastal community where the main commercial focus is tourism. The nearby Barrytown Settlers Hall is a unique community-run venue - this week attracting Kiwi legend Don McGlashan on his third visit.
Locals who have formed the Coast Road Resilience Group (CRRG) are mindful there are a handful of people who might apply for – and then might or might not get - positions to drive the up to 50 trucking movements a day, and some other mine site roles. Other experts would need to be hired in from Australia or elsewhere.
“We’re not against jobs for Coasters,” CRRG Chair Katherine (Laksmi) Crick says. “Recent reports have shown that many Coast employers – including mining companies - can’t get staff, staff can’t get adequate housing – there’s virtually no rental properties on the market. And for anyone who is one of the many, many Coasters involved in tourism, this industrial operation completely changes the context of what the Coast is about. Mining is hardly reflective of West Coast Regional Council’s award-winning “Untamed Natural Wilderness” campaign.
"People in Westport are already suffering with no respite from relentless trucking with the Cape Foulwind mine. The floodgates could open affecting more and more people on the Coast as companies eye up more opportunities to join the 'mineral sands bandwagon’. No one in their right minds (whatever their stance on mining) would want to live adjacent to operations of such scale with all the adverse effects. Do we really want more and more of these scenic areas of the West Coast turned into industrial zones and trucking routes?
Ms Crick says the TiGa application includes pages and pages of dense technical information.
“We’re just a local group with around 150 supporters. We don’t have the deep pockets and access to experts on trucking, noise, freshwater management, and handling of potentially dangerous radioactive minerals. But we do have neighbours and families who live here for the quiet life, for the environment, and the strong sense of community... people who have invested their life savings into homes which will plummet in value once an industrial operation starts up.”
The Coast Road Resilience Group believes councils should encourage transition to a decarbonised low emission economy, not support a proposal adding further emissions from a new industry, she says.
“We all know the future of business is low emission. This consent proposal is for a new emission-intensive industry, totally counter to the world’s imperative to stop using fossil fuels and save our planet. The Zero Carbon Act is clear: all roads ahead must be low emission, not laden with truck after truck. The possibility of starting up a new high emission industry in 2023 is absurd.”
As well as the dubious economics and the environmental questions the consent application raised, there was also the appropriateness of TiGa’s attempt to site its industrial operation in the middle of a community, not in some vast unpopulated area of Western Australia.
“We’re the ones who put our hands up to look after people in a civil defence emergency. We’re the ones running our local playgroups and exercise classes, trapping predators, supporting the school gala, and turning up to the Ping Pong Pandemonium. We pick up the Tāiko (Westland petrel) when it crash lands on the road, confused by lighting. Will these trucks see the birds, let along stop their tight schedules to save these feathered heroes?
“Just like those big battlers on the NZ threatened birds list, we are feeling once again that the lives we have made for ourselves are endangered. We’re pitting ourselves against the winds that seem to prevail in favour of mining interests on the Coast.
“We’re really not sure our futures are in the best hands. Our councils should be creating great environments to live and work and play in. If we’re having to continually fund campaigns to have the right to a quiet life, to support mostly offshore profits, to herald jobs that we have no capacity to fill, and to change our environment, plant and bird life forever, it doesn’t feel much like our councils really have our best interests at heart.’
“The only way we can even try to level out this playing field is to get people to support our cause. Like and follow our Barrytown Matters Facebook page where there are a list of submission tips, email us for information at firstname.lastname@example.org, support our Givealittle fund, and most importantly – write submissions before 4pm on Friday 13 October,” Ms Crick says.
The TiGa application and submission information can be found on the Grey District Council’s notified consents page - https://www.greydc.govt.nz/06your-home/planning-and-resource-consents/notified-consents.