Mining Rhetoric

Bugger. I was lining myself up for a PR job with the mining companies and Shane Jones has beaten me to it.

I had my fingers crossed when I promised the mad Latin I’d never spend another cent on horses after that time I tried to ride to Bolivia and I still want another horse before I need a hip replacement. Obviously one can’t pay for the chaff by writing so I was thinking I’d change my name to something funky and write the press releases for the mining companies as a side line. I’d call myself Saffron DuFont and wear expensive silk floaty stuff and big jewellery and organise a pay packet which ordinarily would be about 4 times that of an investigative journalist .

That was the idea until Shane stepped up.

He’s good though. I’d pay to listen to him but I hadn’t reckoned on him being the local tongue for hire.

At least, I hope the mining companies are paying him because he’s doing a really good job – and credit where credit is due. I’ve got some catching up to do. The first thing I’d do go for is division – make an issue that is essentially about long term sustainability, real wealth and water into a brown or white issue. I’d blame those annoying pakeha greenie fundies. I’d point out that they only show up on their skates to hold signs and wear too many scarves before retreating again behind their white picket fences and good jobs. I’d then make it seem as though the whole kaitiaki guardianship and future proofing for the next generations was a throwback to some mythological past and that any real groovy Maori will get with the programme and hop on the mining magic train of quick cash. That way those annoying pakeha tree huggers will never gain the benefit of learning about social action from a people who have spent the last 150 years honing their skills and Maori environmentalists will be shamed into silence, accused of not thinking of the good of their community.

Nice. Keep them separate.

The trick is to sell the false dichotomy between having to choose between feeding your kids and looking after the environment.

Make it seem like there are only two options and mining is the better one – it’s very important at this stage of the game to make sure that NONE of the other options that could have been pursued over the last 15 years of political neglect in the North are ever mentioned.

It’s best to ignore, that there is very little in the way of central government and local joint ventures for aqua-culture or fisheries - Thames is looking at the creation of 400 jobs by expanding their mussel industry for example. Can’t go there.

The idea is to keep the eyes firmly focussed on getting quick cash now.

 Dammit! He’s already done all of the above – I’m going to have to think harder.

The problem is that the one model that Phil Heatley keeps holding up as an example of gilded goodness is Newmont’s Waihi and the numbers aren’t adding up. While there may be billions in mineral wealth buried in Northland, the model that we have in Waihi shows that it does not get shared around the place it is extracted from. In Waihi, with the mine, the unemployment rate still sat at 8.3% when the economy was booming in 2006. Northland has an unemployment rate of about 8.7% today. In Waihi, with the mine, the median income is $15,200 – about $9000 a year less than the wider area of Waikato and 5000 less than the North.

Most poignantly - in Waihi – with the mine, 43.1% of the people aged 15 years and over have no formal qualifications compared with 29% for the Waikato as a whole.

 This PR gig is harder than I thought. I might leave it to Shane and his mining rhetoric rumbling like houses falling down mineshafts. Because at some stage I know someone will come and ask me ‘Show me the Money.” And so far, at least I don’t know what I’d have to tell them.

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