At 7.30 am, the five locked themselves to the gate at the entrance to the factory’s coal plant, as a pile of woodchips was dumped in front of them, with the message “FONTERRA QUIT COAL,” while others were dressed as cows pointing to the woodchips as an alternative. In all, 24 people are now at the site taking part in the protest.
One of the grandmothers is Coal Action Network Aotearoa’s (CANA) Jeanette Fitzsimons,joined by CANA’s Rosemary Penwarden, Auckland Coal Action’s Jill Whitmore (also a farmer), Mike Dumbar – one of the farmers who refused to sell his land to Solid Energy when it was buying up land for its now-abandoned plans for massive coal expansion project in Southland, and Charlie Montague – a health student from Dunedin.
“Fonterra is our second largest user of coal and this factory burns 180,000 tonnes of coal a year. All of this ends up in our atmosphere, contributing to climate change. It’s time for Fonterra to keep the coal in the hole and switch to woodchips instead,” said Ms Fitzsimons.
“Fonterra’s coal use is also propping up the mining industry – coal mines around the country are being re-opened and extended because of Fonterra’s addiction to coal.”
Fonterra is the largest customer for Bathurst Resources, which started mining the Denniston Plateau, but stopped when the coal price dropped.
“There is no question that without Fonterra, this company would have gone bust,” she added.
The protest has come at the end of CANA’s “Summerfest” in Ashburton, which has seen more than 50 campaigners from around the country gather for a two-day discussion around the issues of Coal, Cows and Climate.
“The meeting was extremely productive. New Zealand’s biggest contribution to climate change is agriculture, with rising emissions from the dairy industry in particular. Farmers are being hit by the impacts of climate change, and everyone is experiencing the gathering crisis of water pollution. These issues are all connected.”