26 Nov 2012

Judge raises concern over Bathurst chair's comments

10:04 pm on 26 November 2012

An Environment Court judge has raised concerns over comments made by the chairman of a company that wants to build a mine on the West Coast.

Bathurst Resources is seeking resource consent for an open cast mine on the Denniston Plateau - something that is opposed by a number of environmental groups.

Bathurst chairman Craig Munroe said in a shareholders' meeting last week the company faced a never-ending appeals process that allowed minority groups to stifle development in New Zealand.

Judge Laurie Newhook says the comments are an expressed criticism of Forest and Bird and are a concern to the court.

Judge Newhook described them as "pretty robust comments about the appeal, and about the appeal process".

He says the court endeavours to move the proceedings in an expeditious fashion and asked the lawyer acting on behalf of the company to follow up the comments.

The court is looking into whether Bathurst subsidiary Buller Coal should keep the resource consent it was granted in August last year to mine 200ha of conservation land, after environmental groups Forest and Bird and West Coast Environment Group appealed against it.

Evidence on flora, wetlands this week

A third week of court sessions began on Monday and is hearing evidence about flora and wetlands on the plateau that will be affected by the mine.

Buller Coal has brought to the court the director of consulting company Sustainability Solutions, Fred Overmars.

Mr Overmars, an expert on plants, says he has spent more than two months on the site surveying the vegetation.

Buller Coal lawyer Jo Appleyard says further rehabilitation measures for when mining is complete will be presented to the court over this week.

Ecologist and botanist Dr Kelvin Lloyd will give evidence for Forest and Bird, which is opposing the consent.

Evidence was given at the first two weeks of the hearing, held in Christchurch, about the economic and social aspects of mining in the area.