Woollen yarn was wound around the barriers surrounding an exploratory drilling site near Mt Karangahake as an unusual form of protest on Sunday.
The tactic was employed by 25 members of the Protect Karangahake protest group as they occupied the Newcrest Mining drilling site on farmland near the foot of the mountain at midday.
As well as tangling the wool around the site, protest leader Lucy AitkenRead climbed atop the main drilling rig, where she stayed until police arrived and removed and arrested her some hours later.
Speaking after the group had left the mountain at 5pm, AitkenRead said she had been charged with wilful trespass and resisting police and had to appear in the Waihi District Court on Wednesday.
Several other members of the group had been issued with trespass notices.
Being hauled off the rig had been “quite an intense experience,” and had coincided with the arrival of hail and mist, AitkenRead said. She said she had not struggled and her protest had been a passive one.
“I didn’t want to cause trouble, but I am ready to protect this land.”
More creative protests would follow.
“We have a strategy for doing whatever we can to stop that rig. We fear it’s the beginning of full-scale mining.”
“[It] has been drilling into the side of the mountain 24-7 for two weeks – it is undoubtedly having an impact on wildlife in this area, one of New Zealand’s most important ecological corridors.”
The drill site was surrounded by ancient Maori kumara pits which were of great historical significance, she said.
“We can feel the vibrations and hear the noise from our home in Waitawheta. These are the early stages of mining and I believe Newcrest Mining need to hear the message that we will not tolerate their exploitative practice here, right on the edge of conservation land.”
“I’m not angry with the miners,” AitkenRead said. “My great grandparents were miners. And I’m not angry with the police.
“I’m angry with a system that allows a goldmining company like Newcrest to drill such an important ecological area. I’m angry with a government that has sold the mining rights for conservation land to an overseas company.”
Spokespeople for Newcrest Mining in Australia were unable to be reached for comment on Sunday.