Government consultations on climate policy

The Government is in the middle of its super-fast public consultations on its post-2020 climate policy – or its “intended nationally determined contribution” (INDC) – commonly known as a post 2020 emissions reduction target that must be submitted ahead of the climate talks in Paris later this year.

We hope the Government will take its head out of the sand for its post-2020 policy.  Photo credit: Ruth Dyson

We hope the Government will take its head out of the sand for its post-2020 policy. Photo credit: Ruth Dyson

They’ve already held a week of meetings around the country – our apologies for not getting this message to you earlier.

Please find pasted below the list of public meetings over the next two weeks – in Rotorua(today), Auckland (today), New Plymouth, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

It is important that as many of us take part in these meetings as possible, to give officials the message that we care about NZ having a strong climate change policy.
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Coal is in a deep dark hole, let’s keep it there

Coal Action Network Aotearoa have been hearing rumblings about a new coal mine being developed just 10km from Westport, on the West Coast of the South Island of Aotearoa. Given that the rest of the world is moving away from mining coal, it seems ludicrous that anyone is seriously considering pushing ahead with this crazy venture. So who is it, and what are their plans?

The proposed Te Kuha mine is a joint venture between Stevenson Group and Rangitira Developments. So at least this venture has some experience of coal mining going into it (unlike Bathurst Resources on Denniston). Stevenson Group are the largest coal mining contractors in Aotearoa, and they just lost the contract in Takitimu, Southland after being shut down by Worksafe due to unsafe Health & Safety procedures on site. So Stevenson’s have a whole heap of idle equipment which I am guessing they are keen to deploy, least it lay unused.

According to the Greymouth Star 28th July, 2014, the total mining lease area covers 860ha, with the mine footprint proposed to be in 70ha of that. A DOC report to the West Coast Conservation Board in Hokitika on Friday, 25th July, 2014 said that two concessions have been received for 14 hectares of stewardship land and 1.59km of haul road (also on stewardship land). This report has been requested under the Official Information Act but no response has been forthcoming, from either DOC or the Conservation Board. It should be in the public record because it is public land, and we have an interest in what goes on in stewardship land. When will DOC allow the public to have their say over the land that is held in stewardship? None of the relevant councils have received any resource consents for applications, but if they were to, I would certainly hope that they would be publicly notified applications.

Because CANA have not been able to access this public information, we are not entirely sure of the location of the proposed mine. Forest & Bird have commented that they believe the land to have high conservation value. There have been previous attempts to mine this area over many years. In 2001, the Buller District Council voted 6-5 against poisoning their water supply (and allowing the coal mine to go ahead). If the coal mine had gone ahead, it would have had significant costs to the Westport township’s water supply and this seems to be have the reason that the council voted against it.

Stevenson’s are strutting their supposedly local credentials (despite being based in Auckland) and claiming obliviousness to the global price of coal. How can any company be immune to the increasingly depressing future of coal? With the grim situation at nearby Stockton coal mine (operated by Solid Energy), layoffs at Spring Creek, and Bathurst Resources being so desperate for cash that they’re getting rid of managers and pruning their board, coal mining is on the ropes in New Zealand. CANA have contributed to the conversation around ensuring that there is a just transition for the workers. The head in the sand approach to the looming stranded asset disaster that awaits coal companies is wishful thinking and needs to be put into context. These companies don’t seem to care about the workers; they don’t care about the climate, and need to be stopped.


Looking at recent pictures of Happy Valley, we have a coal company Solid Energy, that have belligerently insisted on starting coal mining and destroying a valuable ecosystem. This pig headedness is despite it being totally uneconomic, and pointless. The diggers have stopped, the kiwi are gone, and for what? So that a coal company can led the workers on a merry goose chase with fingers crossed that it might work out? It is the height of irresponsibility.

Let’s not let such a future await this Te Kuha stewardship land. Ours, not mine.

Laid-off Stockton mineworkers and West Coast community deserve a future

Press Release

Former Solid Energy CEO Don Elder and Finance Minister Bill English turn the sod for Solid's failed lignite briquetting plant in Southland.

The “good old days”? Former Solid Energy CEO Don Elder and Finance Minister Bill English turn the sod for Solid’s failed lignite briquetting plant in Southland.

The Government must step in to help the 113 mineworkers who’ve been dumped by Solid Energy today – and the communities around them – to begin a discussion about an alternative future for the West Coast that doesn’t rely on a boom and bust industry, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.

With coal prices forecast to remain at record lows into the foreseeable future, and with investors dumping coal across the world, banking on the coal industry to provide an economic future for the West Coast would be a risky strategy.

On Saturday, CANA released an update of its Jobs After Coal report, which shows that 111 jobs have been lost in the coal industry since March last year. With today’s announcements, that number is now at 224, even with Bathurst Resources’ efforts to dig up more domestic coal to keep itself afloat.
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May Day at Blackball: we call for a new extractive industry on the coast

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes… 

Jeanette Fitzsimons speaking in Blackball on Saturday.

Jeanette Fitzsimons speaking in Blackball on Saturday.

There was a theme for this year’s May Day seminar at Blackball, up the river valley from Greymouth, and crucible for the formation of the mining unions:

“A Sustainable West Coast Economy: dream or possibility?”

CANA was invited to speak about “The problem with the extractive industries”. You can read my speech here – I launched our 2015 Jobs After Coal report, with updated figures on last year.

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New Jobs After Coal report – the future of coal is grim – but a transition to a better economy is underway

Press release

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.21.12 pmThe situation for the future of coal in New Zealand is getting increasingly grim by the day, and the Government must start looking at ways to help local economies like the West Coast transition away from coal, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.

The warning came from CANA representative Jeanette Fitzsimons, speaking in Blackball for May Day commemorations, where she launched an updated version of the group’s report, “Jobs After Coal.”

“Since we first published this report a year ago, there has been little good news for the coal industry.  Just two days ago, Goldman Sachs again wrote down its outlook for coking coal prices, which are predicted to stay low well into the future.” Continue reading

Fonterra Sneaks Round The Corner – Part 2

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes… Our recent post about Fonterra’s new coal mine seems to have provoked a flurry of denials from Fonterra and Solid Energy. Why so sensitive? fonterra_still_burns_coal Fonterra says their Mangatangi mine is not “on hold” but “deferred”. This is what they told residents at a meeting of the North Waikato community group some weeks ago. As there was no time frame for the deferral we interpreted this as “on hold”. Can anyone illuminate us as to the difference?

They say the mine is deferred because of delays in meeting environmental requirements, though they told the community earlier it was because of low coal prices.

We calculate the mine is now around 17 months behind schedule. It was to have produced coal this year, but not a sod has been turned. Meanwhile, Solid Energy says it is still considering (“doing work on”) whether to reopen the Kopako 1 mine in the Maramarua coalfield about 5km from the Mangatangi site. This seems to be a re-consideration.

They obtained resource consent for this in 2006 from Environment Waikato. Their website recently announced it and carried job recruitment advertisements, but these have since been removed. An announcement was also seen in the local Franklin paper, and their annual report refers to “resuming production from our Maramarua opencast mining area”.

A local resident received a notice in his letterbox in November saying the mine was going to be reopened; machinery has been moved on site and some surface earthworks done but no coal seems to have been removed yet.

We assume this was a firm proposal until the latest round of Solid Energy’s financial disasters, which may have caused a rethink. Solid Energy said in its 2014 annual report that it has renewed contracts with the two largest coal users in NZ, Genesis (which runs the Huntly power station) and NZ Steel.

In addition, it had signed a new contract for over 100,000 tpy with an un-named customer. Only Fonterra uses coal on this scale. The only alternative we can imagine is a very large new industry that nobody seems to have heard of.

While the NBR report on the latest statements from Fonterra and Solid Energy says we “claimed” Fonterra is the third largest coal user in the country, that is not open to dispute. The figures are all published year by year in MBIE’s Energy in New Zealand report (formerly Energy Data File).

Given the current world price of coal, no business in their right mind would start a new mine for export, so there must be a local customer.

Consider this:

Fonterra has only three coal-fired milk drying plants in the North Island, Waitoa, Te Awamutu and Hautapu, all in the Waikato.Together, they use roughly 120,000 tpy. They have been supplied from Fonterra’s subsidiary,

Glencoal‘s Kopako 3 mine which was scheduled to run out at the end of 2014. Fonterra now says it is due to run out in 2017. It is unclear from observation whether it is still producing some coal, but there is not much machinery there.

Mangatangi (over 100,000 tpy) was planned and scaled to replace Kopako 3 and supply those three plants. If Fonterra has a contract with Solid Energy for more than 100,000 tpy those plants cannot use Mangatangi coal as well.

Solid Energy says in its attempted rebuttal that it sells coal from Rotowaro to Fonterra for its milk drying plants. That will be how they are meeting the new contract while they decide about Kopako 1.

Rotowaro produces a little under a million tonnes a year and is also in decline but is clearly capable of supplying Fonterra’s three North Island plants without reopening Kopako 1 if Solid Energy continues to contract its operations.

Whatever they decide, it is not possible for both mines to go ahead and supply Fonterra, which was the point of our original blog. Fonterra has not commented on contracts with Solid Energy but has clearly “sneaked around the corner”.

Why does all this matter? It matters because coal is the biggest contributor world wide to climate change, and most of what is left must stay in the ground if we are to prevent climate chaos. This is the real issue – everything else is obfuscation.

Unlike NZ Steel, which has very limited options, Fonterra has a ready alternative. Wood chips from forestry residues can run boilers for heat, and in many NZ industries they do already. Fonterra has claimed for over a year now that it is actively investigating renewable fuels for its heat plant, but has made no demonstrable progress and has stopped the trials it was doing at Studholme. fonterra_use_wood_waste

Why are these two companies prevaricating and trying to confuse? What we need is some transparency and some honest communication.

Footnote: there have been media claims that Coal Action Network Aotearoa is trying to stop coal mining. It is very clear on our website that we are not – we are trying to stop new mines opening so the rest can be phased out as they deplete and miners retire, without the abrupt and deep disruptions in coal mining communities that Solid Energy has caused with its drastic and sudden layoffs.

Fonterra Sneaks Round The Corner

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes…

Fonterra’s subsidiary Glencoal has put its plans for an open cast mine on SH2 at Mangatangi on hold indefinitely. The local community is celebrating. They worked very hard with submissions on all the impacts of coal mining that you are allowed to talk about in consent hearings – water, dust, traffic – but not climate change, the worst impact of all. We hear Fonterra was really surprised at the strength of the opposition.

Much of the credit though must go to Auckland Coal Action which has turned out seven times on the last afternoon of holiday weekends to face traffic crawling back to Auckland from Bay of Plenty and Coromandel, with huge placards saying

“Fonterra plans coal mine here”

“Coal Cooks the Climate”

coal cooks the climate

“Fonterra could use Waste Wood”

The mine was planned for such a public site, adjoining SH2 and the protests got some publicity, as did CANA’s opposition at the consents hearing. We brought expert evidence (PDF) to show wood chip from forestry residues was available and technically feasible as a boiler fuel with no net carbon emissions. This is what a win looks like. But….

Solid Energy has just reopened Kopako 1, an old mine around 5km away which still contains a lot of coal, on a back road hardly anyone ever a uses except for mining. It’s part of the same Maramarua coal field. They have a contract with Fonterra to supply more than 100,000 tonnes a year for their Waikato milk drying plants. Fonterra has just sneaked round the corner and passed responsibility for the mining to Solid Energy.


From the perspective of the atmosphere, nothing has changed. Emissions will continue as planned. But we have shown that Fonterra is susceptible to pressure. All those motorists tooting support for the ACA protests has got to them. They have had to sneak away to a less public site. But it’s not that easy.

Now is the time to keep up the pressure. Fonterra is the third largest coal user in the country by far. With the Huntly power station phasing out they may already be the second largest, after the steel mill. At least 400,000 tonnes a year – we are still working out just how much more than that. This is not compatible with the “clean green image” they like to use to sell their milk overseas.

There is a big opportunity here for Fonterra to position themselves as working towards sustainability by transitioning to wood waste. In fact they told us they were doing that, but are dragging the chain. We intend to keep the pressure on to help them recognise their own self-interest.