Why are we destroying mountains so just a few can profit?

On the 8th of August 2014 the Department of Conservation announced that they had granted New Talisman Gold Mine Ltd an “Authority to Enter and Operate” within Conservation Estate in the heart of Karangahake Mountain. This was a total shock to us the locals of the area, who on further investigation discovered that an non-notified Resource Consent had been granted by the Hauraki District Council for this same company to ‘Bulk Sample’, in other words ‘mine’ 20,000 cubic metres of ore a year from this fragile, regenerating native forest . This ore which equates to 9 x 10 tonne truckloads per day is to be removed via the Dubbo walking track, used regularly by locals and tourists alike.

‘Protect Karangahake’ was formed, a diverse group of locals who quickly jumped into action calling public meetings, engaging in NVDA (Non Violent Direct Action) training, organising concerts and other fundraising events, facilitating working bees on the mountain, informing people via flyers, stickers and one to one conversations, with the hundreds of tourists that flock to the mountain each weekend to enjoy this amazing nature space.

The initial goal was to take New Talisman and the HDC to court for what we considered was a hugely unjust granting of this resource consent. This process was started but at a certain point had to abandoned because it became clear that the likelihood of winning was diminishing and we needed to conserve our resources.
This was a really tough time for us, we had worked so hard to raise money for this case and at the start had been told we had a good chance of winning. Personally I had been part of a creative project with 9 local musicians in recording a CD ‘Songs for the Mountain’ and organising 6 concerts around the Coromandel with the conviction that we were going to win this court case. I was convinced that justice would have to prevail, that how on Gods good earth could any government or local authority allow mining on CONSERVATION land !!!

Feeling compelled to agree to pull out of the Court case left me feeling really helpless about the situation … for a while small groups of us met secretly on the Mountain trail, ready to leap out in front of mining trucks should they dare to begin, but time went on and they seemed to play the game of, if we don’t do anything for a while, they will all wear out and leave us to our gold … it almost worked. But in May this year we heard that they had applied to start work on closing off the proposed site. Our group gathered momentum again and launched into another round of ‘picnics on the portal pad’ (the proposed mining site), protests, rallys and a host of other actions to try and prevent work starting.

I have always thought (naively it seems) that we could stop them, that when it came to it we just wouldn’t let those trucks up that track. But they start slowly, locking the gate, fencing off the area, and rather than so called prospecting they are very busy setting up all the infrastructure they need for full on mining. We start random morning walks up the mountain in 3’s and 4’s to slow them down, to cost them $$$ and put off investors, but after 5 weeks of this the enthusiasm is wearing thin. One day after 2 hours up the mountain, 3/4s of an hour waiting in the winters frost for them to arrive … 3/4s of an hour slow walking and slowing them down and then half an hour recovering and keeping a low profile in the bush till it was safe to exit; we encountered on the way down 2 utes and trailers with a large amount of fencing materials. This was the sort of thing I thought I would never allow to pass, but I have a life to live, work to do and a living to make, we paused and thought for a moment, but I just did not have the energy to hold off anyone any longer that morning. I felt really disheartened walking past and allowing them to drive on.

We have tried all legal ways, court case, petitions, public meetings, meetings with council, D.O.C., M.P.s . the Mining Co … we have tried all creative ways … C.D.s, concerts, arty bra shows, public awareness raising, stalls, protests, banners, signs on highways, letters to the editor, media releases to no end. Now it’s come to a point where I’m saying, I am willing to get arrested if it could help stop this exploitation of the earth and a mountain that is very precious to my heart for the profit of a small few.

I am praying for a change of Government and that a new Government will not just extend schedule 4 to Te Aroha but will extend this across Aotearoa to CONSERVE ALL CONSERVATION land.