To the tune of “The Final Countdown”: it’s a mi-ning back-down… dada daa daa… dada da da da…
The government has abandoned plans to mine in highest-value conservation areas. Needless to say, this is a good thing, and stems directly from the massive public outcry.
As far as handling the backdown goes, the Nats are basically in denial mode. There are two lines you’ll hear in the official comments: “aren’t we great for being democratic?” and also “it was a worthwhile exercise because we’ve educated people about the natural resources available in this country”. (That’s if you even manage to hear them – National Radio this morning said they’d tried to get the PM to comment, but he’d declined saying only Gerry Brownlee would talk to this issue, and Brownlee’s office declined to speak as he’d already said enough on this matter. He didn’t even last out the 24-hour news cycle, poor dear.)
Both those official spin lines are weak to the point of comedy, and they suggest to me that the Nats, as previously speculated, are massively out of touch with our national identity. Moreover, the over-disciplined, almost paranoid and belated backdown suggests they still can’t quite believe it. I should clarify – I don’t think they’re amazed they got it wrong – I think they’re amazed that the electorate is so stupid that it can’t see they got it right!
But it was always about ideology, not facts. Brownlee never showed any convincing numbers about the simple value of this mining, let alone numbers that would somehow make despoiling prime conservation land all right. As much as the Nats would love for us to become Australia, we can’t give ourselves massive mineral reserves by wishful thinking. NZ’s valuable natural resources are its natural environments (both for tourism and for the “NZ brand” which has enormous value in the export market and on the global political stage) and its ecological security (which will see us ride out the water wars and food distribution breakdowns that will be the main story of the 21st century). I am unconvinced that there’s a single person in the National government who really understands how valuable these things are and how much better off we are than Oz.
Anyway. The Nats will continue with their plans to mine conservation land that isn’t high-value – the Labour government was happy to do the same, and I doubt the electorate is going to mobilise to stop them. The polls for the Nats haven’t shifted throughout this affair, so I doubt it’s even going to cost them much at the next election, unless opposition parties can effectively make this a campaign issue – and whether they can do that depends on what happens in the next few weeks. If Labour, in particular, doesn’t land some solid hits about this in the next fortnight, then it’ll be forgotten by voting time.