Fonterra Ignores the Big Picture

By Rosemary Penwarden

The decision by ECAN and WDC to allow Fonterra to keep on expanding, adding a new 30-tonne/hour coal-fired boiler to their Studholme milk processing plant near Waimate, reminds me of my Dad’s driving.

Fonterra Quit CoalWhen I was a kid we occasionally drove from Wanganui to Lower Hutt to visit cousins. With Dad behind the wheel it was Lower Hutt or Bust. Even a toilet stop required dire ultimatums to get the car to slow.

When Mum was behind the wheel, variables were appraised, the big picture assessed and the agenda adjusted accordingly. More often than not, that meant stops at every vegetable stand, regular side-of-the-road picnics and occasionally, much to Dad’s chagrin, detours to a stream for a quick dip before hitting the road again.

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Auckland Coal Action: Activists carry out Waikato coal mine inspection, leave climate message

A group of eight activists from Auckland Coal Action, many of them grandparents, have carried out an inspection of Solid Energy’s Kopako 1 coal mine in the Waikato to protest its redevelopment, and left a climate change message for the company.

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The mine, near Maramarua, in North East Waikato, has been dormant since the 1990s, but Solid Energy has now begun work to revive it.  The team confirmed after walking into the site that not only has overburden been removed, but coal mining from a seam has begun.

“Solid Energy is undertaking extensive development of this old coal mine, despite having no customers for the coal, and the international industry being in terminal decline,” said one of the activists, Geoff Mason of Auckland Coal Action.

“Meanwhile, the Government has signed the Paris Agreement which means that we have to get out of coal by 2050, globally, which means coal like this has to stay in the ground.

The team walked into the mine site, and spent around an hour at the coalface, wrapping a excavator in “climate crime scene” tape confirming that new mining has removed the overburden and is now digging up coal. They deployed signs and banners, before leaving again.

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Among the activists who inspected the mine today was Phil, a great grandparent.

“I am seriously concerned about a climate changed future for my five great grandchildren – this is why I am here today, to tell Solid Energy and the Government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and keep the coal in the hole,” she said.

Auckland Coal Action is also concerned that one of the potential customers for the mine could be Fonterra, the country’s second-largest user of coal.  Fonterra was planning to open its own coal mine at nearby Mangatawhiri, but has put those plans on permanent hold.

“Solid Energy might be eyeing Fonterra as a potential customer, but Fonterra should be looking at changing its energy source to renewable wood and biomass rather than coal,” said Geoff Mason.

“What is clear is that this mine should be kept out of commission – for the climate, for the local environment and for our future.”

Check out more photos from the action, and watch this video in which Nick from Auckland Coal Action explains what’s on the line:

Fonterra coal boiler decision “ridiculous”

PRESS RELEASE

Death Star 15The decision to let Fonterra build a massive, coal-fired boiler in South Canterbury is a blow for the climate and a sustainable future, and flies in the face of any regard for our grandchildren, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.

Environment Canterbury and Waimate District Council today gave the go-ahead for Fonterra’s planned 30-tonne/hour coal-fired boiler at its Studholme factory just outside of Waimate.

According to an expert witness for CANA (1), this would have to see an increase in the South Canterbury/North Otago dairy herd of 270,000 cows, in order to provide enough milk to feed the factory.

In May, in the face of what it called “strong opposition,” Fonterra cut its plans back to one boiler instead of two.

“Even one new coal boiler will over-extend the environmental capacity of the area,” said Rosemary Penwarden, a grandmother, of CANA.  “We are extremely disappointed that the Commissioners didn’t take the wider impact of the plant into account in their decision – the region can’t take it.
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Chch council should drop climate deniers from expert review panel

PRESS RELEASE

The Christchurch City Council should drop the two climate deniers it recently appointed to a new panel to re-review a coastal hazards report,  Coal Action Network Aotearoa said today.

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Christchurch City Council illustration of sea level rise

As part of its district plan, the council commissioned the engineering firm Tonkin Taylor to estimate the impacts of a sea level rise of around 40cm over the next 50 years, and one metre in 100 years.

After loud local protest from potentially affected residents,  the council has appointed a new panel to conduct a second peer review of the report.  But that panel now has two well-known climate science deniers on it:  Kesten Green and Willem de Lange, whose history of climate denial has been set out on the Hot Topic blog.   Continue reading

Reflections on my experience at the Fonterra Studholme resource consent hearing

by Jenny Campbell

Fonterra clinging

What does it mean to be part of a positive, hopeful and world -changing group of motivated people?

My experience of being part of the Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) team and their oral submission presentations at Studholme, near Waimate, was humbling, invigorating, and life changing.

The build-up and hours of submission writing, strategizing as to who from CANA was covering what aspect and counting the number of people from the local community as well as others from further afield who had committed to being there, all added to the anticipation.

Teleconference calls kept the focus on the strategy of presenting factual information to combat the Fonterra’s evidence. Much rejoicing occurred when we heard two experts, economist Peter Fraser and wood boiler engineer Christian Jirkowsky, had agreed to appear as expert witnesses on our behalf.

Fellow CANA member, Zella Downing and I set off after work from Invercargill, arriving in Waimate late at night, having covered a multitude of topics including what we were saying when it came to our oral presentations. We had already heard from CANA member, Rosemary Penwarden about her impressions from the days at the end of the previous week as to how the Commissioners were listening carefully to alternative views, not hurrying submitters, asking searching questions and appearing to be listening. Continue reading

Would that Fonterra Would Use Wood!

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes…

Well, actually CANA doesn’t care whether Fonterra uses wood or not. If it finds a way to dry milk with moonbeams, that’s fine by us. What it mustn’t do is keep using coal, let alone expanding it, or expand its gas use.

We’ve been promoting waste wood from forestry because that is abundant, it’s renewable as long as forests are replanted, the technology to burn it is mature, it is found around the country, and we have the local expertise. So, ever helpful, we are getting alongside Fonterra and trying to find a good alternative for them. But the bottom line is, coal must go, and so must gas soon after.

Outside its Edendale dairy factory in Southland, Fonterra gets a clear message.

Outside its Edendale dairy factory in Southland, Fonterra gets a clear message.

Our campaign is having an effect – faster than we expected.

After hearing our evidence (well, our witness Peter Fraser’s evidence) at the Studholme consent hearing that prices are not going to rise enough to make new or expanded dairy farms profitable, and so there will be no milk for the proposed plant to dry, Fonterra has half accepted our argument and dropped one of their two proposed driers. That’s 270,000 new cows they were sure a few weeks ago they had to provide for, which they now agree are not going to materialise. So where is their evidence that the other 270,000 will?
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Urgent civil disobedience with 350: what does it feel like?

I found the direct action at the ANZ inspiring and necessary. Here is a snapshot of what a non-violent direct action can feel like.

At the briefing the previous night, we asked questions, especially about arrest, and ran through what we’d do during the action. Snacks, goodwill and optimism were abundant and this theme continued the next morning.

At about 8 am a wall of coal sacks blocked the doors. We linked arms and sang songs. Others handed out leaflets to explain the purpose of the civil disobedience or spoke to media, and buses tooted their support for our divestment message on a prominent banner, with our oil spattered climbers standing on the awning above. Police were present, but not threatening or intimidating towards the main group of protestors.

I ended up sitting next to another doctor. We discussed how emergencies require urgent responses. If you had a heart attack in front of me, I wouldn’t tell you to come back in 2 weeks if your heart attack didn’t feel better. Likewise, urgent direct action is necessary for the health emergency of climate change. It felt good to be doing the right thing.

ANZ  were keen to avoid media coverage. Some customers wanted to get in, but even an older couple who needed to get arrangements for travel sorted that morning told us they supported what we were doing, and were able to get what they needed after some discussion.

By 11 am the lights inside went off, a sign saying they’d closed up for the day was stuck on the door and the remaining staff trailed out through a side exit. Our roof climbers with the banner came down, and we sang waiata of support as they were issued with trespass notices, which was all done in a civilised and friendly manner.

The day was a success, no one was arrested or hurt, and we didn’t have to use the fortitude we had built up the previous night, nor the learned skills of dealing with forcible removal.

Business as usual cannot continue, and breakfree2016 actions around the world coordinated by 350 made that clear. There are risks involved, of arrest, of having force used against you, of upsetting people, and perhaps most worrying of all, of this not producing the changes we urgently need.

This event gave me courage to engage in similar actions again. Between courage and hope, we may have all we need to produce transformation.

“The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker