Land access – In New Zealand access agreements are negotiated with the landowner, who has the absolute right to grant or decline access. This requires the miner to build trust and confidence with the landowner, and often the wider local community. Where the landowner has a commercial interest in the land, a farmer for example, negotiations are normally relatively straight forward. The value generated by a mine on a unit area basis is always much higher than that generated by alternative commercial land uses, and an access arrangement is typically struck when the miner makes the deal worthwhile for the landowner.
For land in the conservation estate, DOC has traditionally issued access agreements under a range of criteria including assessed conservation values, conditions additional to those set under the RMA. Historically, most access applications from mining companies have been granted.
Consents for activities under the RMA, and other relevant legislation – The RMA is an “effects based” regime that considers the social, economic, and environmental aspects of any proposal. RMA consents are required, broadly, for any activity that disturbs or impacts the environment.
The RMA provides for an independent and robust process. Applications are considered by independent experts and any consents are subject to conditions that the authority considers are required to ensure that the impacts of the proposed activity are acceptable to society.
The current regime allows a case-by-case assessment of resource proposals with a high bar for mining companies to establish rationale and justification to mine.
If the process does not work, the Environment Court is the ultimate arbiter. This is free from political influence.