Following public outcry, New Zealand drops plan to mine protected areas

Jeremy Hance
July 20, 2010

The New Zealand government has caved to public pressure, announcing that it is dropping all plans to mine in protected areas. The plan to open 7,000 hectares of protected areas to mining would have threatened a number of rare and endemic species, including two frogs that are prehistoric relics virtually unchanged from amphibian fossils 150 million years old: Archey's frog (Leiopelma archeyi) and Hochstetter's frog (Leiopelma hochstetteri).

In May 40,000 protestors marched in New Zealand against the government's plans, which the New Zealand Herald called the 'biggest [march] in a generation'. In addition, the government received over 37,000 submissions on the plan, most of which criticized the idea of removing protected area for mining.

Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee said "we heard that message loud and clear. Green Party co-leader MP Metiria Turei, who had fought the plan, told Voxy that the government's announcement was 'a victory for common sense'.

"You look after the things you love, and thousands of New Zealanders have reminded [Prime Minister] John Key of this simple truth over the last year. As a result, we've changed the agenda on mining in New Zealand," she added.

The New Zealand government also announced that it will create 14 new protected area, comprising 12,400 additional hectares.

Along with threatening a number of New Zealand's unique species, critics said the mining would imperil the nation's tourism industry which brings in around 21 billion dollar annually.

While the Archey's and Hochstetter's frogs are saved from mining they are still threatened by invasive species and the amphibian disease, chytridiomycosis which is responsible for over 100 extinctions in the last thirty years. Archey's frog is considered the world's number one amphibian in terms of evolutionary uniqueness and threat-level by the Zoological Society of London's program EDGE's.

For more on the issue: World's 'number one frog' faces extinction from New Zealand government.

Related articles

World's 'number one frog' faces extinction from New Zealand government

(05/26/2010) Archey's frog is a survivor: virtually unchanged evolutionarily for 150 million years, the species has survived the comet that decimated the dinosaurs, the Ice Age, and the splitting of continents. Seventy million years ago New Zealand broke away from Australia, essentially isolating Archey's frog and its relatives from all predatory mammals. Yet, if the New Zealand government has its way this species may not survive the century, let alone the next few decades. The New Zealand government has put forward a controversial proposal to begin opening three of the nation's protected areas to mining: Great Barrier Island, Paparoa National Park, and Coromandel Peninsula where the last populations of Archey's frogs live. According to critics, the government's proposal could push Archey's frog toward extinction, while negatively impacting a number of other endangered species, beloved wild lands, and a nation driven by tourism.

New Zealand dairy industry contributing to rainforest destruction, says Greenpeace

(08/22/2009) Fonterra, the world's largest dairy exporter is contributing to destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia through its consumption of palm kernal as animal feed, alleges Greenpeace.

Rare frog breeds in captivity for the first time

(03/03/2008) A rare species of frog has been found breeding in captivity in New Zealand, reports the Associated Press. The finding offers hope that the species' vulnerability to extinction can be reduced.

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (July 20, 2010).

Following public outcry, New Zealand drops plan to mine protected areas.