A print and online petition launched by residents of the Ruapuke and Aotea area, taking action against the possibility of an open cast mine has received some overwhelming support from residents and visitors alike in recent months.

First receiving media attention in November last year, a Waikato Times article outlined what Green MP Catherine Delahunty described as a David-and-Goliath situation.

Sinosteel Australia Pty Ltd, subsidiary of iron trading giant and one of China’s largest state-owned-enterprises – Sinosteel Corporation, was reported to have lodged four exploration permit applications with the Crown Minerals Office around mid-October last year.

The permits were in relation to four plots of land along the coastline between Raglan and Port Waikato, Ruapuke to Aotea Harbour, north of Kawhia and south of Marokopa, covering a total of around 24736 hectares of land. Some of the minerals named in the permits include lead, zinc, magnesium, titanium, iron, ironsand, copper and tungsten.

While the Crown Minerals website states that Sinosteel’s applications are pending, Lisa Thomson, whose family land falls within the boundary of exploration permit application 54011 says, “ The bulk of the exploratory work has already been done. When I contacted the Crown Minerals Office they informed me that with the permission of a compliant landowner, they don’t need to wait for an application to be granted.”

The Ruapuke Kollective confirms that a local farmer who owns the majority of the land that is being explored has granted permission to Sinosteel to access the land.

Furthermore, after members of Ruapuke Kollective met with Sinosteel geophysicist Jayson Meyers, it was confirmed that two significant pockets of ironsand have been identified to undergo mine feasibility studies.

A feasibility study will determine the economic viability of a mine and whether Sinosteel will proceed to apply for resource consent.

Concerned residents and members of Facebook group “Ruapuke Kollective,” are taking a proactive stance and trying to raise awareness about the possibility for mining to go ahead. “We’re being proactive now so people have the time to work from the same info and act on what’s going on,” says Lisa.

Launched around December last year by Ruapuke residents Belinda Goodwin, Marcus Fellowes and Janeva Thomson, the group initially set out to obtain a minimum of 200 signatures for the petition in order to register an objection with the Waikato Regional Council.

Belinda says that for any exploration or mining activity that goes on, land access rights must be arranged with individual landowners. Furthermore, both she and the Waikato Regional Council confirm that for any mining activity to begin, Sinosteel will have to apply for a number of resource consents, depending on the magnitude of the project.

“ To go ahead, they need the consent of affected parties, which is people like us with neighboring properties and pretty much the whole of the wider Raglan community,” says Belinda.

Lisa also has concerns about the impact that exploration and mining will have on sites of cultural and historical significance to local Maori. Contained in one of the exploration areas is ancestral pa site, Manuaitu, the most significant of the four pa sites that stood in the Aotea area.

One of the largest pa sites between Tongaporutu, Taranaki to the south and Raglan to the north, the site was established in 1500 by Whatihua, an eponymous Tainui ancestor to whom most of Waikato/Tainui can claim descent.

Phillip Latham, of the New Zealand Archaeological Association further stated, “The area around Aotea harbour is a highly significant archaeological landscape with some of the best preserved prehistoric agricultural systems still existing undisturbed in New Zealand.”

“Coming from another country I have great concern that their (Sinosteel) interests are mining and not preserving the local history and culture. We as local Maori will strenuously oppose all attempts by any mining companies to extract resources from these lands,’ say Lisa.

Although their initial goal was to reach 200 signatures so they could officially file an objection, the power of social media has taken the petition national and they currently have well over 500 signatures.

“We really want this petition to be a platform to facilitate discussion about what is happening, a lot of people see the petition and are shocked that this is going on. We’ve made some great progress and are overwhelmed by the support from Raglan, Auckland and everywhere really,” says Lisa.

Belinda, Lisa and the Ruapuke Kollective will have a presence at the upcoming Maui Dolphin Day held at the Kopua Domain on Saturday10 March 2012 if you would like to know more information.

At the time this article goes to print, no applications for mining operations have been proposed to the Waikato Regional Council.

Maki Nishiyama