“New Zealand is joining the global race to meet a surging demand for energy and minerals, with a plan to open up highly protected conservation areas to mining,” writes Paul Cleary for The Australian. The country has also commissioned extensive geological surveys, which have identified a massive resources bounty that the new conservative government is rushing to develop. The government has called for submissions on a plan to allow mining on 7000ha of the most environmentally sensitive land in the country. The decision follows a geological study that revealed potential for gold, silver, coal and rare earth elements in these areas. Better known for its tourism, sheep and dairy, New Zealand is emerging as a significant oil producer, potentially making it the Norway of the Pacific. New Zealand’s mineral resources excluding coal and petroleum have been estimated at about $194bn. Energy and Resources Minister Brownlee said coal resources could be worth just as much, with substantial known reserves in the South Island. He said the 7000ha area was a tiny part of the 4.6m hectares in Schedule 4, and that the “precision” mining that he envisaged would not tarnish the country’s brand image, “100% Pure”.