Global Test Case Pending: Employment Necessity versus Ecology Ideology
Shifts in the politico-economic strata underpinning New Zealand's employment scene now point to the abandoned Pike River Coal Mine being re-opened, but this time worked as an open cast mine.
The dual priority and duelling doctrinal fault lines that are colliding with each other on New Zealand's remote West Coast of the South Island are represented by:-
The economic necessity of providing employment in the rainy region which is soon to feel the impact of reduced dairy export prices and the departure of several mainstream processing industries, notably the Westport cement works.
The ideological desirability of preserving the coal field as an unspoilt wilderness
The threads of the 2010 Pike River Coal Mine disaster in which 29 lives were lost increasingly come into view. We can now see the point of departure.
It is traceable to the 1987 decision by a Labour government to proclaim as a National Park the Paparoa scenic district which lies between the twin mining towns of Westport and Greymouth. This area included the coal field inside the new National Park's boundaries.
At the time of the National Park designation the area was even being officially assessed for its metallurgical grade coal deposits.
The politics behind this contradictory state of affairs amounted to this.
The Labour government had successfully tapped into the middle and professional class environmental sentiment.
Now (by 1987) it saw this voter capture as propelling it into the status of the nation's natural party of government. Creation of a new National Park was just the signal this new and supportive urban voting sector needed, wanted.
The result of this flamboyant National Park decision would be left to another Labour government to cope with, the one led this time around by Helen Clark.
Her Labour government found itself on the horns of a political dilemma, the horns having been sharpened by the earlier National Park-favouring Labour government, the one led by David Lange.
The instant it received from promoter New Zealand Oil & Gas Ltd the mining licence application for the coal field within the still quite newly minted Paparoa National Park the Helen Clark regime found itself on the sharpened horns of a dilemma of its party's own making.
It was strung out between the pillars of its central two doctrines.
There was the one to protect the environment, especially as represented by a National Park. Then there was the one to conserve, improve, and generate employment opportunities.
The West Coast region is a stronghold of the Labour Party, and the very birthplace of the Labour movement in New Zealand.
These two differences can be seen now at the time of the application to have been irreconcilable.
Especially so because at the time the government's own neighbouring Stockton coal mine, a large scale one worked as an open cast quarry, was attracting highly organised environmental opposition without it even being on protected land. Commissions and inquiries have danced around the Pike River coal mine disaster case with almost 100 lawyers engaged at any given time. There remains though a strong burden of belief that the underground mine was the compromise, and, as it turned out, a dangerous one.
Now the National Government led by John Key must confront another mining reality.
Sitting like an invisible and undetected layer of firedamp over the Pike River episode is the absence of seasoned people in the supervisory and deputy strata qualified to fill essential underground inspectorate and operational duties.
Pike River's status as the unquiet grave for the brave miners who perished in the series of underground explosions in 2010 is likely to be overtaken by demand for the metallurgical grade coal that caused the mine to be opened in the first place.
MSCNewsWire by Peter Isaac © 2014 MSCNewsWire