Labour's reversal on Eugenie Sage's Waihi mine decision shows Green Party's lack of ministerial power - Greenpeace

Source: 1News

The Labour Party overruling Eugenie Sage's decision to deny an overseas mining company from buying 180 hectares of land in Waihi has proven that the Green Party aren't "so powerful after all," according to Greenpeace Aotearoa's Russel Norman.

OceanaGold's application under the Overseas Investment Act to buy the parcel of land to dig for more gold was approved by Labour Party ministers Grant Robertson and David Parker, after being previously denied by Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage.

Mr Norman, a former Green Party co-leader, called the move "an early Christmas present for the gold mining company".

"They've got approval to build a toxic waste dump, essentially," Mr Norman told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

He said Ms Sage said it was not in the national interest to have "a great, big toxic waste dump ... but of course, Labour had now completely undermined her and have said 'yes', they want the toxic waste dump".

He explained that the mine is "a toxic waste dump" because "gold mining, by its nature, produces a lot of toxic waste". A tailings dam is then built to trap "a bunch of waste which you don't want to get anywhere else, because it's dangerous".

"But it's just a toxic waste site. It's just going to sit there for many, many years to stop it getting anywhere else."

While the National Party yesterday criticised Ms Sage, saying her ruling against the mining company has “repeatedly let her Green Party ideology get in the way of making good decisions" and Labour's overruling a sign of an unstable coalition, Mr Norman said Ms Sage was "doing her job".

"She's meant to be standing up for New Zealand's national interest," he said. "The overseas investment regime basically gives a lot of latitude to the minister to give their view of what's in the national interest."

The Labour Party said the move will generate 340 full-time jobs over nine years and exports valued at $2 billion over the same period.

However, Mr Norman said Waihi hasn't seen a lot of benefit from the mine, adding that its extension will lead to more money being funnelled into its cleanup. 

"It's one of the poorest towns in the region. It's had the mine there for a long time, so this is about extending the mine a little bit longer, creating a lot more toxic waste, which will then have to be looked after by generations of New Zealanders because this stuff’s going to sit there."

"We've had to spend a lot of money cleaning up previously toxic waste sites, it’s cost a lot of money previously, so we're all going to have to pay to look after this toxic waste dump for the foreseeable future for our kids and everyone else’s kids."

Mr Norman said the overruling has showed that the Green Party's influence in the coalition Government "isn't so powerful after all".

"Labour will simply take it away from them if they don't like the decisions that they make."

Later on Breakfast, National Party leader Simon Bridges said he supports an extension of the mine and wanted miners making good money in New Zealand, rather than working in Australia.

"It does have an effect on the community, it has an effect on the wider western Bay of Plenty where I live, and to not do it would be a disastrous, stupid decision," he said. 

"What this shows is what a lottery it is around economic development," he said. "You'd need a crystal ball to work out where this Government is coming from."