The West Coast of the South Island has been the centre of coal mining since the 19th century. The economy of the West Coast in recent years, has been dependent on mining, fishing, forestry, dairying, and tourism. Forestry has reduced because native forests in that area have trees which are several hundreds of years old, so they cannot be cut down.
Tourism is increasing but the average tourism wage is $40,000 whereas other industries are better paid. The average wage for mining for instance is $114,000.
Many West Coasters are concerned that the recent application for an open cast mine on Conservation land has been refused by the Minister for Conservation. Conservation land is land where forests are protected, and the land is sometimes opened for tourists. There are nature walks, and cycle trails. However, about 85% of the West Coast land is managed by the Department of Conservation. The area for the open cast mine would use only 15 sq km out of a total land area of 3,500 sq km.
Today was the opening of a new bridge to replace the road / rail bridge between Greymouth and Kumara Junction. There is now a separate road bridge for cars and trucks. Previously drivers had to check there was no train on the bridge. About 5,000 people today who came to the opening of the bridge, also protested about the ban on mining in Conservation land.
• Department of Conservation – protects native animals, plants and land
• open cast mine – removes coal from the surface of the land, not underground