Mining Threatens New Zealand’s National Bird

"Clean and Green" New Zealand struggles with many contradictions, including high cancer rates (see "Clean and Green New Zealand is a Study in Environmental Contrasts," May/June 2003). Today, New Zealand’s endangered national bird, the kiwi, is facing further peril. A state-owned mining company, Solid Energy Coals, plans to construct a new open-pit coal mine, which environmental groups say will destroy kiwi habitat. "Strangely, the New Zealand government is funding both kiwi restoration projects and coal mining which is destroying prime kiwi habitat," said the group Ecological Internet.

© Jessie Cohen/Smithsonian National Zoological Park

The Cypress Opencast Mine, approved for New Zealand’s west coast in a court decision last May, is also said to be home to a rare land snail. Solid Energy says it will provide appropriate kiwi protection during the 30-year life of the mine. Forest and Bird society field officer Eugenie Sage says, "We don’t share the court’s confidence in Solid Energy," citing the company’s poor environmental track record.

Solid Energy lost its bid to recover $379,000 (NZ) from environmental groups.