Claire Browning at Pundit has got a must read piece on the mining-our-national-heritage business.
Firstly, she catches Gerry Brownlee spinning a wee bit when he supports the case for digging by citing a world bank report listing NZ as second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of natural wealth per capita. It turns out that…
…our ranking was overwhelmingly attributable to pasture and crop land (68%) and, ironically, protected areas (19%). The subsoil assets category comprised a tiny proportion (3%).
Secondly, she points out that National do not appear to be kidding.
Senior ministers donâ€™t come out punching hard, in a fight theyâ€™ve voluntarily bought, which they must know is going to be a knock-down drag-out fight, without a degree of commitment to something or other. Tim Groser invoked this image, allegedly dear to the public heart, of a Conservation minister who â€œgoes around with knobbly knees and shorts and releases kiwi into the wild. I am a champion releaser of kiwi into the wild â€¦ but Iâ€™m sorry, weâ€™ve got to grow upâ€. Gerry Brownlee liberally salted his soundbites with words like â€œhysteriaâ€ and â€œparanoiaâ€, and blustered on Morning Report about how what weâ€™d just heard was an â€œincredibly biased piece of reporting but not anything more or less than I expect from Radio New Zealandâ€.
She’s right. It’s no coincidence that this was first signaled in a speech to the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. When you then go on to announce a ‘stock-take’, that’s also not an accident. (I’m actually kind of amazed that the Government is using that ‘stock take’ language as something to supposedly calm our nerves and allay our fears.)
I’m a bit disappointed by the pushback I’ve seen so far. It appears to have accepted the framing set up by Brownlee and is responding almost solely with arguments around the 100% Pure branding and the negative effects on the tourism dollar that might be felt through the mining of our National Parks, wetlands, marine reserves and who knows what all else.
The problem with this is that it puts a dollar value on those assets. Put a price on them and they are for sale. These assets are not for sale. That is the point of them. They were not land banked to be used in case of increased demand for lignite. Not all of these lands are pretty little tourist spots either. By making it ‘tourism vs mining’ we allow National to be able to carve off wetlands and other habitats because ‘tourists never go there’. These lands are protected because of their intrinsic value, any money we may earn off them through tourism is nice of course, but that is merely an allowable activity, not their purpose.
Labour’s opposition has got some potential problems. Given their recent history National will have some room for maneuver. I think the mocking ‘absurd’ tone could work. It focusses on the fact that these are schedule four lands, and moves outside of Brownlee’s framing of monetary value only. It is also not anti-mining per se, which is important, (for Labour), given Labour’s historic ties.
On that note, here’s Levon Helm singing a Steve Earle song about mountains, and mining