The Minister of Energy and Resources says there is potential for gold mining on conservation land on the Coromandel Peninsula.
In August, Gerry Brownlee confirmed a stocktake was being planned to identify which areas of conservation land were of lower conservation value and could be used for mining.
Estimates show there could be between $20 million and $40 million worth of gold beneath Coromandel land protected by Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act.
Mr Brownlee says gold mining could take place in areas that are "deemed to have relatively low conservation values, but are currently locked up because they are deemed to have high values".
The Coromandel Watchdog environmental group says mining could not be done, even underground, without devastating environmental impacts.
Environmental Defence Society chairman Gary Taylor fears only mining interests are being listened to, and says Mr Brownlee has refused to meet his group until after the land stocktake is completed.
But the chief executive of the Minerals Industry Association, Doug Gordon, says the Government's suggestion is a "breath of fresh air". He says mining can be done in an environmentally responsible way.