The New Zealand Government said it will open up more than 7,000ha of conservation land for mining at the Coromandel Peninsula and Paparoa National Park on the west coast.

New Zealand Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee said the conservation land contains about $194bn-worth of minerals, and that while mining is an emotive issue he hoped a debate could take place on the value of it.

“We now have the parameters for a constructive discussion about the role mining might play in helping grow the economy and the value of our exports to help improve living standards for New Zealanders,” Brownlee said.

“Today the government is suggesting allowing potential access, with appropriate environmental mitigation, to a small percentage of that resource.”

According to lobby group Forest and Bird, the government initially planned to allocate half a million hectares of conservation land for mining but reduced this fearing a public backlash.

The minister also allocated a conservation fund for the land, which will include 50% of royalty revenue from minerals from conservation areas.

The conservation fund will be a minimum of $2m a year for the first four years and a maximum of $10m a year.