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first_imgGov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at the Alaska Miners Association convention on Nov. 8, 2018. (Photo: Wesley Early/Alaska Public Media)One of the most controversial issues Alaska’s leaders have ever had to wrestle with is the proposed Pebble Mine. The new governor is no exception.Officially, Gov. Mike Dunleavy is not taking a position on the mine, unlike his predecessor, Gov. Bill Walker, who opposed it.“So the Pebble Mine project, just like any other natural resource development project, will be subject to an established permitting process,” Gov. Dunleavy said in an emailed statement. “The outcome of this process will determine if the project meets the standards set forth in law and regulation.”But the new governor is already making moves that have encouraged the mine’s backers and worried its opponents.One of those statements was made during Dunleavy’s first major public appearance after being elected governor. He was speaking a mining conference in Anchorage, where he proclaimed that “Alaska is open for business.”The governor gave a shout out to the Red Dog mine, where all three of his daughters work. He spoke about his roots in the mining community of Scranton, Pa., which he called the “anthracite coal capital of the world.”Gov. Dunleavy also mentioned nearly every other mine or planned mine in the state by name: Donlin, Pogo, Kensington. But the name of the biggest political hot-potato of a mine ever proposed in Alaska — the Pebble Mine — didn’t leave the governor’s lips.But Pebble-watchers took note of another name Dunleavy specifically took the time to praise.“I want to recognize somebody else who is sitting here somewhere, I think. Is John here? John Shively? John Shively!” Dunleavy said, to applause.Shively is former chief executive and current chairman of the board for the Pebble Limited Partnership.Dunleavy’s call-out to Shively at the miner’s conference is one of several signals he has sent that have caught the attention of people on both sides of the Pebble debate.Take the newly appointed commissioner of the state’s department of environmental conservation, Jason Brune, who now has the power to issue key permits to the mine. From 2011 to 2014, Brune worked for Anglo American, the mining company that had partnered with Pebble until 2013.Brune has a history cheering for the controversial mine on social media. Last year, he joked in a tweet that Santa had answered his Christmas wishes when Pebble began the federal permitting process. And when the late Pebble foe Bob Gillam was rumored to be a candidate for the Trump administration’s Secretary of Interior, Brune tweeted, “God help us @realDonaldTrump, I thought we wanted to make America great again?’”In an emailed statement, Dunleavy chief of staff Tuckerman Babcock says the governor considers Brune’s time at Anglo American “a valuable asset.”“When and if such projects move to the permitting stage, his insights will greatly assist the department in determining if the Pebble Project, or any other, meets Alaska’s stringent environmental standards and protects all resources,” Babcock said.Babcock also noted Brune “has no financial interest in the Pebble Project.”Brune’s tweets remain a concern for Mark Niver with Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, a group that opposes Pebble.“That’s a definite sign that the Dunleavy administration is pointing towards wanting to push that project forward,” Niver said.In the past, Dunleavy himself has aired opinions that worry Pebble’s opponents. When Anglo American exited the project in 2013, then-state senator Dunleavy wrote an op-ed lamenting the mining company’s departure and noting the thousands of jobs Pebble is projected to create.“If I am asked to make an important policy decision such as Pebble, I would base that decision on science and facts rather than rely on innuendo, mass-media advertising or political posturing,” he wrote.Dunleavy may not say he’s pro-Pebble, but Pebble is definitely pro-Dunleavy. A number of Pebble employees, including Shively and CEO Tom Collier donated to his gubernatorial campaign. The governor’s statements, then and now, are in line with what the mine’s developers want to hear.In an interview shortly after Dunleavy’s election, Collier pushed back when asked if the political winds were now blowing in Pebble’s favor.“I think the way you asked the question assumes a premise that I think is an incorrect one, and that is that this process is primarily a political process, and I don’t think it is,” Collier said.Collier’s long-held public position is that he wants the permitting process to go forward without what he sees as political interference. And because Dunleavy is echoing that message, Collier is happy.“We’re pleased to see Mike be the next governor, and we think that he will clearly let projects like ours into the permitting process and make sure that process is rigorous and thorough. And then the results will speak for themselves,” Collier said.Pebble opponents are watching the new governor and his appointees closely. But for now, some key voices against large-scale mining in Bristol Bay are reserving judgement.“I think we’re still kind of collecting our thoughts,” said Norman Van Vactor, president and CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation, which vehemently opposes Pebble.While Van Vactor and many other regional leaders have expressed strong criticism of the state and federal permitting process, developing a constructive relationship with Dunleavy and his staff is a priority.“I don’t want to be too judgmental because we haven’t had that opportunity to meet them in person, and I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Van Vactor said. “But, again, based upon what we’ve read and what we’ve heard, we definitely have some concerns.”Pebble will need dozens of state permits if it wants to build the mine. It hasn’t submitted for them yet. It’s not saying when it’s planning on doing that, either. But when it does, state agencies will need to make some important decisions.For example, Brune, the environmental conservation commissioner who used to work for Anglo American, could be asked to review Pebble’s application for a permit to dispose of the mine’s waste.But even if Pebble submits for state permits, the process moves quickly and the mining company gets everything it wants from the Dunleavy administration, that’s not the end of the story. Forces beyond the governor’s office will significantly influence whether the Pebble mine gets built.In addition to state and federal permits, mining within the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve requires legislative approval because of a public initiative that voters approved in 2014. And Pebble will need to secure permits and agreements with the Lake and Peninsula Borough and private landowners to build roads and a transportation corridor.Another key factor is that the Pebble Limited Partnership is still in need of a financial partner.Analyst Chris Mancini with Gabelli Gold Fund, which is invested in Pebble, said he views Dunleavy’s election as a positive sign for the mine’s future.But Mancini added there’s a big caveat.“What’s more important is who is going to be president when the record of decision is made, and who is going to be leading the EPA,” Mancini said.Perhaps the most significant player looming over the whole process is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the federal agency that proposed placing restrictions on the mine under the Obama administration — restrictions Pebble says would have made the mine impossible to build.While the Trump administration reached a settlement with Pebble, allowing them to start the permitting process, the EPA will still have to decide whether or not to finalize those restrictions.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release its final environmental impact statement for the project late next year. If the process continues as scheduled, that’s when EPA can make its decision about finalizing the restrictions.So whether Dunleavy turns out to be a Pebble ally or not, it is leaders in Washington, D.C. who could decide the fate of the most controversial mine in Alaska.last_img read more

first_img4. Eyeball Auckland War Memorial MuseumThe columned façade of the Auckland Museum dominates the Auckland Domain and it’s worth a look inside. It houses a war memorial with galleries devoted to the fallen of World War I and II, along with an outstanding collection of Maori objects, including a beautifully carved meeting house. There’s also a Maori cultural performance several times a day – a wonderful feast of conch calling and haka stomping.Opening times: Daily 10am – 5pm (Maori performance 11am, 12pm and 1.30pm; extra 2.30pm performance from Nov to Mar).Location: The Auckland Domain (see above), Parnell.Price: Adults $25 ($45 with Maori performance), Concessions $10 ($20 with Maori performance).5. Investigate Auckland Art GalleryThis recently refurbished gallery showcases the best of New Zealand art, and is fascinating for its pictorial record of Maoris as envisaged by European settlers – paintings that provide more insight into the politics of the artists than the subjects. The collection also features recent artwork by lauded contemporary New Zealand artists, including Ralph Hotere. Best of all, it’s free.Opening times: Daily 10am – 5pm.Location: Corner of Kitchener and Wellesley Streets.Price: Free. 6. Eat Japanese foodAuckland is home to a vibrant foodie culture, and the city’s wide variety of restaurants offer cuisine from every corner of the world. But perhaps the highlights are the Japanese restaurants, which have gone from strength to strength over the years: Masu is a particular highlight, thanks partly to its awesome desserts, while Cocoro offers top-notch seafood and fancy multi-course menus to choose from. 8. Chill out in DevonportDevonport is a suburb on a peninsula opposite Auckland city centre, and it’s home to some of the oldest buildings in the city, many of which date from the mid-nineteenth century. It boasts numerous galleries, shops and cafés (most notably the Mediterranean inspired Manuka Café), which makes it ideal for an afternoon potter. Or if you want a slightly more energetic activity, try the 23-kilometre North Shore Coastal Walk for scenic views across the bay. 12. Catch a match at Eden ParkWhether you’re a cricket or a rugby fan (or neither), this 50,000-seat stadium is one of New Zealand’s best-known attractions, as well as being its largest stadium. Hosting some of the most important sporting events of recent years, including the Rugby World Cup 2011 and Cricket World Cup 2015, you can take an hour-long tour to peek behind the scenes, including a trip down the player’s tunnel and onto to the renowned No. 1 field. Or for an unmissable opportunity, check the schedule to find out when the All Blacks or British & Irish Lions are next in town. Visit more incredible rugby destinations around the world, with our guide.Opening times: Tours Mon to Fri, 2pm (except for match days and public holidays).Location: Reimers Ave, Kingsland (near Kingsland train station). Public transport from Auckland is free if you have an integrated match ticket.Price: (Tours) Adults $23, Concessions $18. Match prices vary. 13. Camp on Motuihe IslandAnother of Auckland’s picturesque gulf islands, Motuihe makes a good day trip and an even better weekend break, if you’re the outdoor sort of type. Once the home of notorious WWI prisoners like Count Felix Von Luckner, thankfully you’ll only have the birds and the bees for company these days. It’s a protected area for wildlife and if you’re lucky, you might spot a rare shore skink or saddleback bird. Book ahead if you want to camp on the beach, and read up on the conservation rules before you go. Take the 360 ferry to get here. 9. Sip wine on Waiheke IslandJust over half an hour on the ferry is Waiheke Island, an ideal place to spend some lazy days. The island has some fantastic sands to sprawl on (check out Oneroa and Onetangi beaches) and some creepy World War II tunnels to poke your nose into, but the highlights are the wineries. Various tour companies will take you around the vineyards for a tasting session covering over a dozen wines – make sure you pace yourself in case of potential mishaps on the minibus.10. Take a trip to One Tree HillOne Tree Hill is a 182-metre volcanic peak on the edge of the city – one of several volcanoes that surround Auckland, including Mt Eden and Rangitoto. Long ago it was home to a Maori fort, and the terraced sides of the mountain show extensive farming. The eponymous tree at the summit was cut down by settlers in 1852, much to the outrage of locals; a replacement was planted, but it was a non-native species and was damaged by chainsaws in attack by Maori activists in 1994 and 1999, and eventually had to be cut down. Currently the summit is treeless, hence the local nickname: ‘None Tree Hill’. But tree or no tree, the hill provides wonderful views of the sprawling city below. 7. See the birds on Tiritiri Matangi IslandTiritiri Matangi is just over an hour from Auckland by ferry, and it’s an absolute paradise for birds (and bird-lovers). All mammalian predators have been eliminated from the island, allowing the birds to thrive, including the famous kiwi (although don’t expect to see one, they’re nocturnal). You can explore the island by yourself, but you’ll learn a lot more about the local wildlife if you take one of the guided walks offered when you step off the ferry (book a place in advance when you buy your ferry ticket, for $10 more). 14. Take the kids to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium……or just take yourselves. This huge Sea Life centre is packed full of enough exciting underwater species, shark tunnels and rock pool curiosities to please kids both big and small. Check feeding times, tours and visitor ‘experiences’ to plan your visit, including a shark cage dive, for the brave-hearted. The King and Gentoo Penguins are the country’s only colony of Antarctic penguins and are one of the most popular (and cutest) things to see.Opening times: Daily, 9.30am – 5pm.Location: 23 Tamaki Drive, Orakei. Free hourly shuttle service from 172 Quay Street (opposite the downtown Auckland ferry terminal). Price: Adults $39, Children $22, Concessions $30 (online discounts available).15. Plunge into Kitekite FallsJoin the locals in the summer, as they head down to Piha Beach for lazy picnics, fishing, surfing and hiking. Located within Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, around 40km from Auckland centre, one of the best things to do here is walk up the track from Glen Esk Road and reward yourself with a beautifully cool plunge into Kitekite Falls. Stretch out on the black sands at Piha afterwards, and try fresh fish and chips, Kiwi-style, at Blairs on the Beach. Find flights to Auckland1. Climb up the Sky Tower… and jump off itSlap bang in the centre of the city is the unmissable,328-metre-tall Sky Tower, which is a godsend when trying to get your bearings in Auckland’s streets. But as well as providing a handy landmark, it offers some stunning views for diners in the Orbit 360 revolving restaurant – or if you don’t fancy eating altitude, you can simply pay to go to the observation deck. Once you’re up there, clip yourself onto a wire and teeter around the ledge that encircles the building for a stomach-flipping experience. And real thrill seekers can even throw themselves off New Zealand’s highest building, thanks to the Skyjump, a sort of bungee jump with a gentle deceleration rather than a jolt.Opening hours: (May to Oct) Daily 9am – 10pm. (Nov to Apr) Sun to Thurs, 8.30am – 10.30pm; Fri & Sat 8.30am – 11.30pm.Location: Victoria St W & Federal St.Price: Adult $29.00, Child (6–14 years) $12.00, Children 5 years and under are free.2. Cruise around the Hauraki GulfAuckland occupies a narrow strip of land on New Zealand’s North Island, and as such it’s practically surrounded by water – water that’s ripe for exploring. The Hauraki Gulf is dotted with islands that can be accessed by ferry from Queens Wharf, or you can opt for a longer cruise. Fullers offer a short cruise that takes in Rangitoto Island, which is home to a symmetrical shield volcano and lava tubes that visitors can walk through (bring a torch), or you can opt for a longer, overnight cruise from Hauraki Blue Cruises that takes in several islands and includes a three-course meal and accommodation. Whatever option you go for, don’t forget to keep an eye out for common and bottlenose dolphins leaping through the boat’s bow wave.3. Explore Auckland DomainThis mammoth, 75-hectare city park deserves a mention of its own, playing host to some of the best things to do in Auckland, all year-round. With an array of unassuming local nicknames such as the ‘Duck Ponds’, the Domain is home to the beautiful hothouse Wintergardens, exciting nature trails, outdoor sculptures by local artists, and a grassy extinct volcano that forms the hill at the centre of it all. Come in December to drink in the festive atmosphere at the Christmas markets, or look out for special events in the autumn and winter (March to August).Opening times: Daily, 24 hours.Location: (Main gates) Park Road, Grafton, by Auckland Hospital, Parnell.Price: Free. 11. Tackle Auckland Harbour BridgeForget Sydney, Waitemata Harbour Bridge (aka Auckland Harbour Bridge) is the place to snap your selfies, strut along the waterfront and er…jump off something high. Again. This landmark of box truss engineering spans the sea from Northcote Point to St Mary’s Bay and is more than 1000 metres long, the second-longest bridge in New Zealand. It can be admired from up close (check out the Auckland Bridge Climb for a Spiderman-style tour), or from a safe distance, at a cool harbourside cafe bar like Barabra. Then there’s always the 40-metre bungee drop…Opening times: Up to eight jumps and bridge climbs a day, depending on season – see the website for times and booking.Location: Auckland Bridge Climb and Bungy is located at Westhaven Marina on the city (south) side of the bridge.Price: $125 each for bridge climb or bungy (combo tickets available). How to get to AucklandAuckland International Airport is one of the busiest in the country and is located around 20km south of Auckland.Often the shortest and cheapest flights to Auckland from the UK go from London Heathrow or London Gatwick airports. Several long-haul airlines run this route, including Singapore Airlines (stopping in Singapore) and Qantas (stopping in Sydney). You can also find one-stop flights from Manchester and Birmingham.Looking for the cheapest fares to Auckland? 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