New Zealand is a great place to invest in minerals exploration and mining.

Our country offers a developed country lifestyle; stable politics and policy; mineral resource potential; good infrastructure; a mild climate; and a wide variety of outdoor recreation. Mining employees in New Zealand commute daily to work, as a rule, making for stable mining communities, and healthy work-life balance.

Learn more from Straterra’s brochure Invest, Explore, Prospect NZ.

NZ’s global rankings for exploration and mining

The World Bank “Doing Business 2014” report ranks New Zealand as the 3rd best place to do business in the world, based chiefly on our legal system, and lifestyle. In 2013 New Zealand topped the Transparency International global anti-corruption perceptions index.  

The Canada-based Fraser Institute conducts annually a survey of mining company perceptions of doing business in minerals-bearing jurisdictions around the world. In 2013-2014 this public policy think-tank surveyed 112 jurisdictions. New Zealand ranked 11th for the legal system; infrastructure (28th); quality of geological data (33rd); political stability (34th); minerals prospectivity under current practices (41st); tax system (44th); certainty of regulation (44th); and certainty of environmental regulation (79th).

New Zealand is seeking to improve on these rankings. Straterra was established as an industry body to influence policy development towards improving New Zealand’s attractiveness for investment.

View the Minerals Briefing Paper 2014 for Straterra’s position on a range of policy issues, and recommendations. 

Ownership of minerals

The NZ Government (also described as “the Crown”) owns all gold, silver, uranium, and petroleum, wherever they occur. The Crown also owns all minerals on Crown-owned land, or land that used to be Crown owned, including the seabed out to the 12 nautical mile limit of the territorial sea. The exception is greenstone or pounamu (nephrite), which is owned by a NZ Maori tribe in the South Island, Ngai Tahu.

In all other cases, minerals are privately owned, either by the land owner, or by some other person or group (e.g., a Maori tribal trust). Permission is needed from the title holder for almost all minerals activities. Airborne geophysical surveys would be an obvious exception. In the case of private land owners, a commercial arrangement is usually reached. A regulatory process must be followed in the case of Crown land to obtain an “access arrangement”.

Learn more from the government business unit responsible for administering the Crown minerals regime, New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals.

New Zealand’s indigenous people – Maori 

Around 15% of New Zealand’s population identify as Maori, indigenous people descended from voyagers from Central Polynesia (Cook Islands, Tahiti) who arrived in New Zealand many centuries ago.. Today Maori are divided into more than 100 tribes (iwi), and many more sub-tribes (hapu). Each iwi and hapu identifies with a particular place in New Zealand (rohe).

As “people of the land” (tangata whenua), Maori hold special status in New Zealand’s Constitutional arrangements, under a Treaty signed at Waitangi in the Far North of New Zealand between the British Crown and Maori chiefs (rangatira) on 6 February 1840. Learn more on Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

The practical effect of the “Treaty partnership” for minerals explorers and miners is that Maori consider themselves to be more than a stakeholder, land owner, or member of a community. That is a crucial consideration for industry when engaging with, or consulting Maori on projects, as part of gaining a social licence to operate. Learn more on engagement with Maori groups from New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals, or from the Environmental Protection Authority.

As a general consideration, for engagement to be effective, Maori may expect some or all of the following: that it is genuine and open; initiated at an early stage at a senior level; and focused on developing a meaningful relationship (in the context of the proposed activities).    

The Maori tribal economy is very significant, partly as a result of redress for historical breaches by the Crown of the Treaty of Waitangi, provided to individual or groups of iwi and hapu. In terms of primary industries, Maori have commercial interests in fisheries and aquaculture, forestry and farming, and tourism. To date Maori have not invested significantly in exploration or mining. In principle, an opportunity may exist or could be developed in this area.

Maori will also have cultural interests in relation to exploration and mining projects, and will have a concern for the environment - in the context of stewardship (kaitiakitanga) of natural resources, within their rohe.    

Learn more from a University of Otago booklet produced in 2013: Maori and mining and from the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Maori Cultural Kit (Te Kete Tikanga Maori).

Social licence to operate

As elsewhere in the world, minerals exploration and mining projects are more likely to succeed if there is local buy-in to what is proposed. A “social licence to operate” must be earned, and cannot be assumed. Some parts of New Zealand are actively supportive of mining, notably the West Coast of the South Island, because of a continuous history of mining dating back to the 1850s. Other communities are less supportive, and the Coromandel peninsula may be an example.   

At a national level, most New Zealanders are conditionally supportive of minerals exploration and mining. In surveys commissioned in 2012 and 2013 from Pauline Colmar, 81% of New Zealanders supported exploration and mining, provided: economic benefits flow into New Zealand; locals are employed; and the environment is managed. Straterra says all of that is the case. Learn more on public support for mining.   

Each company will develop its own approach to engaging with and consulting land owners, communities, other stakeholders, and Maori on their exploration and mining projects. Straterra’s role is to work at a national level, to promote understanding and acceptance of our industry in New Zealand.

As a safeguard for all interests, New Zealand’s resource management regime provides avenues for affected parties to express their concerns and influence projects, via submissions, hearings and/or court appearances.     

Resource management regime for minerals

New Zealand’s resource management regime comprises many pieces of legislation, the chief of which are the Crown Minerals Act and the Resource Management Act, both passed into law in 1991. Browse New Zealand legislation here.

The New Zealand system generally but not always provides for public participation, and is widely regarded as world class, in terms of setting high environmental standards. That said, the system is complicated. It can be expensive and time consuming to gain regulatory approvals. Mining companies on conservation land may need to comply with 5-6 laws covering environment and heritage. The quarrying of shingle from a river bed may need consent from a district council, regional council, Department of Conservation (owner of a riparian strip), and Land Information NZ (owner of the river bed).

Much of Straterra’s policy work is aimed at resolving regulatory complexity. Learn more from Straterra’s Minerals Briefing Paper 2014.

Health & safety in employment

In 2012 New Zealand initiated a comprehensive overhaul of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 regime. This followed the Pike River coal mine tragedy in which 29 miners died underground in a methane explosion. The Government and industry are committed to ensuring as far as possible that such an accident does not occur again. The Government upheld all 16 recommendations of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the accident.

 In 2013 industry restructured its health and safety council, MinEx, to provide expert input into work on legislation, regulations, codes of practice, and guidelines; into the development of new qualifications and training for health and safety; and into improvements to the Mines Rescue Service. The work is ongoing. Mine and quarry operators will be increasingly having to meet new statutory requirements on health and safety, and will need to become familiar with the new regime, as it continues to evolve.

Learn more about health and safety from the health and safety regulator, Worksafe NZ, and from MinEx.

The exception to the above regime for health and safety at workplaces is at sea, in respect of vessels, in which case the Maritime Transport Act 1994 regime applies. The regulator is Maritime NZ.