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April 2012 Issue
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Black Gold

Forest and Bird’s 48-hour Bioblitz held at the start of March on Denniston Plateau on the West Coast saw 150 volunteers and some of New Zealand’s leading scientists attempt to identify the many species of flora and fauna found in the area.

The high sandstone plateau is the proposed site for open cast coal mining by Australian-owned Bathurst Resources. Bathurst has been granted resource consent to mine this publicly owned conservation land for coal but still requires a concession from the Minister for Conservation.

The Bioblitz campaigners hope that Denniston – home to many endangered species including giant carnivorous land snails, great spotted kiwis and green gecko – can be granted reserve status, thus protecting it in perpetuity from development.

The communities on the West Coast rely on mining of high-grade coal like that being held by volunteer Brent Barrett for their economic survival. While Denniston coal would contribute to CO2 emissions, demand for resources means there’s a trade-off: short-term growth or long term sustainability.

But something everybody should consider is that once the plateau’s gone, it’s gone forever.

– Fraser Crichton