By Geena Paul
AUCKLAND (Commodity Online): Great Barrier Island is a large island of New Zealand, situated 100 km to the north-east of central Auckland in the outer Hauraki Gulf.
The island is caught in a row over whether mining should be allowed to continue or should it go for tourism promotion. With an area of 285 square kilometres (110 sq mi) it is the fourth-largest island of New Zealand's main chain of islands, with its highest point, Mount Hobson, rising 621 metres.
According to reports, the residents of Great Barrier island want jobs. While many fear the impact that allowing mining would have on tourism, some would like the chance to take a look at it.
Most islanders were strongly against mining Te Ahumata plateau, a slope on a high peak a short drive from the airfield. But with few jobs, no secondary school and fairly rough roads in most places, the lure of up to $4.3 billion worth of gold and silver the government says is sitting in the hills is hard to ignore for some.
Tourism had been growing but at the same time anything that attracts attention to the island is good. Altogether the lush native forest and pristine white sands attract about 45,000 tourists a year, creating most of the jobs done by the 850 or so occupants.
The proposed mine site is on the route of the most spectacular section of the annual Wharf-to-Wharf race, and in direct sight of planes flying from Auckland to Great Barrier, and from the United States to Auckland.
This is not a place that would be easy to mine without the support of residents. There is no electricity grid, no reticulated water and almost no cellphone coverage.
The remote island was initially exploited for its minerals and kauri trees and saw only some limited agriculture. It is now inhabited by a small population. The majority of the diverse environments of the island (around 60% of the total area) is administered as nature reserve by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, with the local authority being the Auckland City Council.
Recently, the island atmosphere has been described as being life in New Zealand many decades back, not without some positive emphasis.
The island received its European name from Captain Cook because it acts as a barrier between the Pacific Ocean and Gulf.