A US-based gold mining company (Coeur Gold) has failed to properly back-fill its underground mine at Waitekauri near Waihi causing a large 40m wide sinkhole to collapse into the Empire Vein mine workings about 15 years later in 2013. The hole has opened a pathway for acidic leachate and heavy metal toxins to pollute ground water and streams. The regulators of the mine – the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and Hauraki District Council (HDC) have taken no steps for nearly 4 years to require Coeur Gold to remedy the sinkhole. Nor have they taken any enforcement action for possible breach of its resource consents or mining licence. Coeur Gold has recently suggested to the regulators that rather than the company paying around $500,000 to fix the problem it created – the sinkhole should remain as a “vital reminder for future generations of what can happen” on mine sites. I kid you not. I am not making this up. Continue reading
A combination of historical events and climate change are producing an environment for a perfect (fire) storm in the hills above Thames, and elsewhere on the Coromandel Peninsula. The recent serious fires at Moanataiari near Thames and at Kaimarama near Whitianga are an indication of a clear and present danger of increased fire risk in our region.
We have been warned about the increased fire risk from more severe drought caused by climate change for more than a decade. For example the NIWA Fire Research Report from 2005 warned of more severe fire weather and fight danger, and a string of warnings from the IPPC, the Ministry for the Environment, the Prime Minister’s Science and Advisory Committee, and the Royal Society of New Zealand have followed. This makes a nonsense of Prime Minister Bill English’s claim that “no one could have anticipated the large-scale fire on the Port’s Hill” near Christchurch.
Figures released last month by NIWA show that 2016 was the hottest year on record for New Zealand, with record or near-record breaking temperatures for many locations. This is the stark reality of global warming. It should not come as a surprise to Bill English or anyone else that the firestorms we have seen in Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay Northland and Coromandel in recent months are in the very places that experts have been warning us would suffer increased droughts and fire risk.
The other major but overlooked factor causing increased fire risk for Thames is the legacy of gold mining in the 19th century. Not only did gold mining leave a toxic legacy of streams and the foreshore polluted with heavy metals – the hills above Thames from the Hape stream to the Tararu stream were stripped bare of any vegetation. This also occurred close to other settlements where mining took place.
“Kanuka, manuka, grey scrub, bracken – a huge mass of dry fuel – soon abounded. European settlers then added (privet,) gorse, broom, wattles, eucalypts and pines and the ecological scene changed again. Not only did these plants promote fire, they flourished because of it, re-sprouting after fire as few native plants do, releasing abundant seeds that thrived in the nutrient-rich ash and cleared landscape. This paints a rather grim picture of a vicious and irreversible cycle of fire and regrowth. “
What we need is an ambitious revegetation programme that will support fire-resistant indigenous species and reduce those risks. There are plenty of people who would support the removal of privet which is rapidly spreading over the hills behind Thames. A coordinated program to replace introduced plants and weeds such as privet with native species will:-
- improve the health of many who suffer respiratory problems,
- enhance the ecology of Thames’ hinterland,
- provide much stronger protection against the more frequent fires which will inevitably occur due to climate change.
Thames-Coromandel is ideally suited to become a Living Wage District. It ranks as the 4th lowest District in New Zealand for median household income. Local incomes have increased at half the rate of many similar rural Districts, and we have levels of social deprivation at the extreme end of the scale. Housing unaffordability is shockingly almost on par with Auckland. Inconvenient truths.
Many local families experience hardship or poverty despite having one or two adults in paid work. Of the 270,000 children estimated to be living in poverty in New Zealand, two in five come from households where at least one person is in full-time work or self-employed. Continue reading
Thames town and the District, has a higher number of people aged 55 years and over, compared to the rest of the country. The average age for the District is 51 years compared to 37 years nationwide, and 27% of the District’s population is aged over 65. Most other parts of New Zealand will not be as “old” for another 20 or 30 years.
Some people I’ve spoken to regard the more aged local population as a problem. But is it? To the contrary, it can be a great opportunity if local businesses and politicians adopt the right attitudes and policies. Continue reading
Acidification of the ocean due mostly to fossil-fuelled CO2 emissions could have devastating effects on the aquaculture and fish-food industries, and recreational fishing in the Firth of Thames.
So far the oceans have taken up more than a third of the CO2 we’ve been pumping into the air, and as a result the water is becoming more acidic. Many marine experts rank ocean acidification as the most serious threat to New Zealand’s marine habitats. Continue reading
Great news for the Thames minibus proposal –the Community Board approved funding at its meeting on Monday of up to $10,000 for preparation of a Business Plan for the proposal, and up to a further $39,000 for the operating costs of the 6 month bus trial.
Secondly Richardson’s Real Estate – Thames have very generously pledged $10,000 towards the operational costs of the trial (including the cost of “decals” for advertising on the bus). Richardson’s Thames have also offered to promote the minibus service on More FM on their Community Notice Board and their Facebook page. Another potential sponsor will be considering their involvement next week. Continue reading
In December 2016 a draft deed of settlement of claims under the Treaty of Waitangi was agreed between the Crown and Hauraki Iwi. Members of local iwi within the area shown on this map have until the 17 March 2017 to decide whether they wish to ratify the proposed deed. An information booklet sets out a summary of what is included in the proposed deed. Continue reading