Monthly Archives: April 2012

Coal Action Network Aotearoa April Newsletter

Kia ora koutou,

Welcome to the Coal Action Network Aotearoa April newsletter.

One of the biggest political issues this year is the Government’s plan to partially privatise a number of State Owned Enterprises, including Solid Energy. This partial privatisation is supposed to be limited to 49% of each company, but as we found out from Solid Energy itself at Parliament on 5 April, there are huge loopholes which will allow overseas investors to hoover up a majority share in future projects.

This newsletter highlights the campaign against asset sales, including the big march in Auckland on 28 April, the Asset Sales Hikoi which has just begun, and a little action we organised at Parliament on 5 April.

But that’s not all, folks! We have caught Solid Energy out asking misleading survey questions so that it can claim that New Zealanders overwhelmingly support its plans; we’ve got reports on that, on speaking tours present and future, and on Solid Energy’s latest bright idea: deliberately starting coal fires underground.

Our regional and local groups report includes news of a very significant event for Coal Action Murihiku, our southernmost regional group, and details of our first non-violent direct action training weekend.

Next month, we’ll be making some changes to the way the newsletter is produced and distributed, which should enable us to produce a more attractive newsletter and also make mailing list maintenance easier for both newsletter subscribers and CANA.

There is also a lot of work going on to improve our provision of information resources, both in print and online. Check out the “Resources” section of this newsletter below, and stand by for some major improvements to the breadth and depth of information we’re making available about the coal industry, coal projects, and the ways we can stop them.


1. The Asset Sales Campaign
2. Solid Energy in the Dock
3. Rod Morris Denniston Tour
4. Bathurst Aftermath
5. Jeanette Fitzsimons Reports On The Denniston Appeal Legal Action
6. Connect The Dots Day on 5 May
7. Regional and Local Group Reports
8. Lyttleton Coal Port stockyard expansion called off
9. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in the Waikato
10. News Snippets
11. Campaign Resources
12. CANA online: Blog, Facebook and Twitter
13. How To Donate to CANA

1. The Asset Sales Campaign

I mentioned in the March newsletter that the campaign against the Government’s plans to partially* privatise state-owned energy companies, including Solid Energy, would be one of the big political issues this year. (For a concise explanation of why CANA cares about this, check out this video that Jeanette Fitzsimons made for Auckland Coal Action:

This month, a major event in this campaign kicks off: the Aotearoa Is Not For Sale Hikoi. The itinerary is posted below, and is also on Facebook at!/events/170682386382094/ – but please note that this itinerary is subject to change.

We hope that CANA members, and members of CANA regional groups, will take part in many of these events, but here are two in particular to watch out for:

Saturday 28 April: Anti-asset-sales march in Auckland, 3pm, starting from Britomart and continuing up Queen Street to Aotea Square. Full details here: – and Facebook event page:

Join the Auckland Coal Action bloc with their message that our climate is not for sale. Keep Solid energy in public control and keep the coal in the hole! Contact for more details.

Tuesday 8 May: After the hikoi arrives in Wellington on 4/5 May, there will be a week of events on different hikoi-related topics around Wellington. Tuesday 8 May is the “Say No to Coal Mining” day, and we are currently planning for that day. Keep an eye on our Facebook group, Twitter and blog for more details(see item 12 below for how to connect to each of those).

Current Hikoi Schedule

The hikoi starts from Waiora Marae on 24 April. The full itinerary is here, and here is a full list of the protest marches in towns along the way.
Every day has at least one town marching, with the big ones:

Tues 24 April: Kaitaia march 11am
Wed 25 April: Whangarei 3 pm
Sat 28 April: Auckland 3 pm at Britomart
Sun 29 April: Rotorua 3pm
Wed 2 May: Palmerston North 11 am
Thurs 3 May: Porirua 12 noon
Fri 4 May: Te Papa to Parliament

Following that there is a week of protests on various Government policies in Wellington:

Sat 5 May: Rally and Free Concert
Sun 6 May: Constitutional Wananga
Mon 7 May: Say no to Deep Sea Oil demo
Tues 8 May: Say no to Coal Mining demo
Wed 9 May: Say no to Welfare Reform demo
Thurs 10 May: Say no to Privatisation demo
Fri 11 May: Say yes to Constitutional Transformation demo

2. Solid Energy in the Dock

a) Select Committee hearing on 5 April

As we said in a recent press release, “The Good Times Are Over for Solid Energy”.

That press release was sent out in the aftermath of a low-key but effective action Wellington members of Coal Action Network Aotearoa, Generation Zero and other groups carried out at Solid Energy’s appearance for the Commerce Select Committee at Parliament for its annual financial review.

We managed to fill the select committee room with our members and supporters, many of whom had “Keep the Coal in the Hole” signs concealed about their persons. As the select committee members finished their questioning, those people all stood up and held up their signs – while those of us in the back row held up a five-metre banner that read “Keep the Coal in the Hole, Protect The Climate”. The Solid Energy representatives at the Select Committee, including Don Elder (polished as usual) and board chair John Palmer (whose foot I could see tapping nervously on the floor throughout his entire performance in front of the Select Committee) got a big surprise, and a clear message: Solid Energy doesn’t get the chance to put its case unchallenged any more.

Check out our press release, plus photos taken in the aftermath of the action, here:

Greens MP Gareth Hughes, and the Labour members of the Select Committee, both made good use of the opportunity to put the lavishly-remunerated head honchos of Solid Energy on the spot. While Gareth focused on Solid Energy’s environmental track record and on their recent survey of public opinion – see below – Labour drew out the admission that, although the Government had claimed privatisation would be limited to 49%, future investors in Solid Energy could already get around that. Labour’s David Cunliffe explains how in this article:

*So the ‘partial’ privatisation the Government is talking about isn’t quite so partial after all.

b) Solid Energy misleads public with survey questions

At the Select Committee hearing, Don Elder took great pride in proclaiming that Solid Energy’s public opinion survey results showed strong public support for Solid Energy’s planned coal developments.

But Don was being economical with the facts, and you’re not supposed to do that in front of a Parliamentary Select Committee. Some research by CANA has revealed that Solid Energy’s survey was full of misleadingly-worded leading questions.

Now CANA has called on Don Elder to come clean on the full list of survey questions. Check out:
* our letter to Don Elder:
* our press release about the letter:

3. Rod Morris Denniston Tour

After his recent appearances in Auckland, Rod Morris is continuing to tour the country with his stunning photographs of the unique habitat of the Denniston Plateau and of the creatures who live there. He may be coming to a town near you to talk about the rich biodiversity at Denniston and why the Plateau must not be mined.

26 April at 7.30pm: Castle One, Otago University, Dunedin: Rod Morris will be speaking as part of a wider Denniston public meeting in Dunedin. Check out the press release on the CANA blog:

7 May at 7 pm: Renewables Group Motueka, St Thomas Church Hall, 101 High St, Motueka

8 May at 7:30 pm: Forest & Bird Kaikoura. Venue to be advised. Contact: or phone 0274 36 36 36

22 May at 7pm: Whangarei: Manaia PHO Rooms, 28 Rust Avenue, Central Whangarei

The following dates and towns are confirmed, but to find more information on times and venues keep an eye on our blog or join up to the Rod Morris Productions Facebook group:

23 May: Opononi

6 June: Forest and Bird Waikanae-Kapiti/Mana Branch

7 June: Forest and Bird Lower Hutt

11 June: Forest and Bird Levin-Horowhenua Branch

12 June: Forest and Bird Manawatu

13 June: Forest and Bird Marton-Rangitikei Branch

14 June: Forest and Bird New Plymouth – North Taranaki Branch

15 June: Forest and Bird Wanganui

18 June: Main Wellington meeting

4. Bathurst Aftermath

The demo jointly organized by Forest & Bird, CANA, and a number of other groups against the opening of Australian coalminers Bathurst Resources’ Wellington office, and the decision by John Key to open that office, got plenty of good media coverage and is written up here:

But questions remain over John Key’s involvement with Bathurst Resources. Some are still under investigation, but in the guest post on our blog, Liz Springford notes how Nick Smith was fired over a conflict of interest in the same week that John Key flaunted one of his own by attending the Bathurst launch:

5. Jeanette Fitzsimons Reports On The Denniston Appeal Legal Action

We have reported before on the RMA application by Bathurst Resources (aka Buller Coal) to open cast coal mine on the Denniston plateau. West Coast Environment Network and Forest and Bird appealed the decision to the Environment Court, arguing, among other things, that the commissioners erred in deciding they could not consider greenhouse gases in their consent.

Buller Coal has said they want to have that matter decided before the full appeal is heard in the Environment Court as they want to know whether they have to prepare evidence on climate change or not. They therefore applied for a “declaratory judgement” from the Environment Court. Essentially their argument is that the amendment to the Act passed in 2004 which prohibited considering greenhouse gases when hearing an application for an air discharge consent, should apply to all consents. (Denniston does not need an air discharge consent as the coal will all be burned overseas so we argue that amendment does not apply).

This is a test case. If Buller succeed then NZ’s main environmental statute is barred from considering the climate change impacts of any development. The hearing took place on 27 March and we were hoping for a decision by now but at the time of going to press we are still waiting. Sir Geoffrey Palmer, architect of the RMA, appeared for WCENT and argued very powerfully that if Parliament had meant “any consent” it would have said so and the courts are not supposed to make the law, only interpret it.

Buller was joined by Solid Energy who are concerned that the case could make it difficult for them to mine Mt William.

The miners and the councils argued that NZ local government can’t try to control what happens in China and India, where the coal will be burned. In reply we argued that we are not trying to have jurisdiction over China and India, but over NZ mines, which if they go ahead will lead inevitably to the release of emissions overseas in countries which do not have a price on carbon or a Kyoto target. (The intention to control emissions nationally with a carbon tax was the initial reason for the amendment.)

Tom Bennion appeared for Forest and Bird and argued the RMA provides explicitly for indirect effects to be considered where there is a clear chain of causation.

Judge Newhook is currently considering – no doubt you will hear in the news when there is a decision. Whichever way it goes, it could then be appealed to a higher court. In the meantime, the coal is still in the ground and safely out of the atmosphere.

6. Connect The Dots Day on 5 May

On 5 May, is launching its worldwide campaign to Connect the Dots between climate change and extreme weather events. Check out the Connect the Dots website for information about events happening in your area, or organise an event yourself: – and see this short video for what Connect the Dots is all about:

You can search for events in your area here:

7. Regional and Local Group Reports

Southland: Coal Action Murihiku, CAM (Southland) News Update

Developments continue at a rapid pace with the pilot briquetting plant on the corner of Craig Rd and SH 1 near Mataura taking on a new look with machinery delivered and a full blown industrial site becoming obvious.

Dave Kennedy, local Green Party national election candidate, and Robina Lee-Johnston, who farms adjacent to Solid Energy land, are re-organising their PowerPoint presentation and speeches to go to speak to groups about their concerns around lignite mining, such as Lions and Grey Power.

Members of CAM helped organise a Federated Farmers’ meeting in Gore with strategic questioning helping to raise the issues with local farmers. Another meeting is planned. A good follow up in a local community newspaper about an adjacent farming couple’s concerns brought it to the public’s attention.

The official launch of CAM is planned for the evening of Anzac Day at Gore’s ArtSouth Gallery. Our advertising information includes “a unique opportunity to hear this Southland artist’s story and passions about what has driven him to produce so many significant works over a life time. ArtSouth will highlight Wallace Keown’s exhibition with a talk by Wallace about his different styles including some of his protest works such as ‘Mataura Billboard-How Green was my Valley’ painted in 1981- in the Muldoon Think Big era. Mix and mingle with wine and cheese”.

This significant painting with a billboard style- ‘Now showing’ and a green pastoral scene, adjacent to ‘Future attraction’ and a coal mining operation, has been purchased for CAM to use. This is very generous. We are brainstorming ideas in order to use it to its best advantage and will launch it with some controversy and media attention hopefully, to raise awareness and highlight the issues. Numbered prints, postcards, posters…. All being planned. Ideas welcome.

In conjunction with this, another member, professional photographer David Russell, is producing a different art work focus with photographs and a caption printed on to Solid Energy coal sacks. People at Summerfest are featured. They can be strung up at meetings and events and because of their light weight they could be sent to other groups for their use. Watch this space.

It will be a busy day as we are fundraising by splitting wood for sale after Anzac services. The following Saturday a march and activities against Asset Sales will be supported in Invercargill.

Wellington’s Keely Kidner, who is doing a study on linguistics around Southland lignite and Canadian tar sands with the people associated with their protest movements, for her PhD, will be with us over the Anzac Day period.

A local community newspaper published a front page article about the formation of CAM and its members’ concerns and asked Solid Energy for their response. Brett Gamble’s answers had very little substance.

A second year Geography student from Otago chose lignite as an essay topic and sought information from us as well as Solid Energy. Her essay gained an A. Interest is rising about the issues and concerns out there.

Kia kaha, Jenny Campbell from Murihiku


a) Dunedin Cross-Groups Lignite Meeting

On Tuesday 17 April around 20 people attended an initial meeting between the many groups wanting to campaign against the Southland lignite developments. Organisations in attendance included Sustainable Dunedin City, Green Party, Generation Zero, Students for Environmental Action, and the Otago Energy Research Centre, among others. It was a good starting point to establish working relationships between these groups, and it is hoped that this networking will allow the campaign to gain momentum in Otago. For information on the next meeting, or for any feedback on this initiative, contact Tarsh

b) Dunedin NVDA training weekend

CANA and Students for Environmental Action (SEA) are running a nonviolent direct action (NVDA) training weekend, 4-6 May at Waiora Scout Camp, Whare Flat. This is the first of a series of NVDA trainings that CANA hope to facilitate around New Zealand, in order to educate people about the use of NVDA in environmental campaigns, and upskill and empower activists to add these techniques to their tool kit. For more information, or to register your interest, please email

c) Southern Anti-Coal Action (SACA) Update

Rosemary Penwarden writes:

A busy month! SACA and Black Star Books hosted Franklin Lopez and his film End:Civ at the end of March. Over 60 people came to listen to Franklin talk about his experiences making the film, and to watch this commentary on capitalism’s response to climate change (you can find it on Youtube). Food not Bombs provided yummy vegetable soup, and the discussion afterwards would probably have continued all night if we had not been kicked out!

Nicole Foss, ex financier turned sustainable community advocate, swept through Dunedin on her ‘Lifeboat’ tour of NZ, meeting with various groups including Dunedin City Councillors. Her predictions of world financial collapse by the end of the year were an interesting contrast to End:Civ’s scenario. Both events gave us the opportunity to sign more people up to CANA.

More ‘upcycled’ T-shirts of all sizes and colours were printed (“Leave the lignite – save the soil” and “Keep the Coal in the Hole”) at a recent workshop.

d) Dunedin hosts the final hui on the Greens’ “Mining Our Future” Tour

Green MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Hughes have been holding a well-attended and successful “Mining Our Future” Community Tour. The Dunedin event is the final stop on the tour:

Monday 30 April, 7.30-9.30pm, Practice Room, Clubs and Societies Building, 84 Albany Street

See for more on the tour.


Canterbury Coal Action meets on the first Wednesday of every month at the WEA, Gloucester St (next to the Art Gallery) at 7.30pm. The next meeting is on Wednesday 2 May. Please join us. Bring your friends too!

At the moment we are preparing for two upcoming events.

Firstly we are organising for a stall at the Bring Change-Frack No concert this Saturday 28 April from 11am – 4pm at the Riccarton Racecourse. See: . Volunteers are needed for the stall roster. If you can help please ring Sophia: 03 389 9600.

In addition we are organising for the 350 international day of action, themed ‘Connecting the Dots’ for climate change impacts on 5th May. See: We plan to link (join the dots) with many other groups in Christchurch who are similarly concerned about preventing runaway climate change to protect our planet and our collective well-being and survival. If you’d like to get involved please ring John: 03 337 5618.

Please get in contact if you’d like to find out more. Hopefully we’ll see you at our next meeting.

Nga mihi nui
Best regards
Canterbury Coal Action’s blog is at:


a) Next Keep the Coal in the Hole Gathering: 26 April

These informal, two-monthly gatherings arose out of the Mataura Summer Festival and provide a chance to network, educate ourselves, and organise together. The talks this month will focus on ‘a global look at climate.’ All Wellington people who are or want to get involved in anti-coal action are welcome.

Our next gathering is at 6pm on Thursday 26 April. For the address of the gathering and further information, please contact

b) Lower Hutt: An Introduction to the Risks of Fracking: 1 May

This event includes a screening of Gasland, a feature film by Josh Fox, followed by discussion with an anti-fracking activist from Climate Justice Aotearoa on fracking issues closer to home.

7:00pm-9:30pm Tuesday 1 May, Petone Library, 7 Britannia St, Petone, Lower Hutt

Gold coin donation appreciated. Tea & coffee provided.

Baking available as fundraiser for Climate Justice Taranaki
Organised by Climate Justice Lower Hutt folks.

For more info, please contact Michelle Ducat:

No mining companies please!


a) “Just Do It” film screening: 18 May

“Just Do It” film screening
6pm, 18 May
The Kitchen, 14-16 Maidstone St, Ponsonby, Auckland (Top Floor)

6:00 pm start with light refreshments provided. Followed by a short talk by Jeanette Fitzsimons on why we need a coal-free Aotearoa

6:45 pm “Just Do It” film screening

Tickets cost $12 and we strongly recommend booking in advance as the venue only has 60 seats. To book your ticket, contact

Just Do It lifts the lid on climate activism and the daring troublemakers who have crossed the line to become modern-day outlaws.

Just Do It website and trailer:

Event organised by Auckland Coal Action. Proceeds will go to the Denniston campaign

b) Auckland Coal Action April reportback

Auckland Coal Action gained a number of new members in April, great to see! We attended Rod Morris’s talks at the beginning of the month, where we were able to speak briefly about the climate impacts of mining the Denniston Plateau and got a number of new sign-ups from those events.

c) Upcoming activities

Our work for the next few weeks will be to paint banners and placards for the Aotearoa is Not For Sale protest march on 28 April, where we aim to raise awareness of the link between asset sales and climate change. We want to see Solid Energy kept in public control so we can “keep the coal in the hole” and will be marching as a bloc to deliver this message.

We see one of our roles in Auckland as being to fundraise in solidarity of campaigns being carried out in other parts of the country (where they actually have coal mines!). We are organising a screening of the film Just Do It in support of the Denniston campaign. This will be held on 18 May in Ponsonby. Please see the notice above for how to get your ticket.

d) Next Auckland Coal Action planning meeting

Saturday 5 May
1-4pm, Quaker Meeting House
113 Mt Eden Rd
Mt Eden

e) Join us!

We know there are many more Auckland people receiving this Coal Action Network Aotearoa newsletter than are on our local contact list. To get our monthly update and notice of meetings contact and ask to subscribe. OR Come along to our next meeting. New members are always welcome!

8. Lyttleton Coal Port stockyard expansion called off

Prior to the Christchurch earthquakes, the port of Lyttleton was planning a major expansion of its coal stockyard. We’ve recently received word that this coal stockyard expansion has been called off due to earthquake damage:

While the major earthquake damage that Lyttleton has suffered is very sad news, and not the reason we would have chosen for this expansion not go ahead, we are still relieved to see that it is no longer happening. Limiting the number and size of coal export facilities is one way to make it more difficult and more expensive for new and expanded coalmines to go ahead.

However, other coal port expansion plans remain. It now appears that, if Bathurst’s Denniston mine goes ahead, 75% of its coal is planned to be sent via Port Taranaki, and the other 35% via Lyttelton. See for more details.

9. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in the Waikato

Solid Energy has started an Underground Coal Gasification plant at Huntly in the Waikato.

Solid Energy has set up a website to explain what this plant does. It’s worth taking a look at the site at – but some translation is required.

What Solid Energy calls “a carefully managed chemical reaction hundreds of metres underground to convert coal into a synthetic gas, also known as syngas, then bring that gas to the surface through a series of wells” actually means setting fire to the coal and collecting the gas that results.

Starting coal fires deep underground? The coal industry has a long history of doing that accidentally, but doing it deliberately is a relatively new development – and, as far as we know, this is a first in New Zealand.

This article from the UK discusses the history of UCG and shows how the process works. The picture it paints is in stark contrast to Solid Energy’s soothing tones:

Huntly residents are understandably concerned. CANA has been in touch with them, and we will bring you more news of the project, and reaction to it, as matters develop.

10. News Snippets

* One of my most vivid memories of the Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival was Queensland farmer Sid Plant telling the story of Acland, the town nearest to him, which was promised riches from mining and was destroyed instead. The NZ Herald has just published an excellent article about Acland: and the moving video “Anzac Day in Acland” is always worth watching and sharing:

* We don’t need to cross the Tasman to see how coalmining destroys communities. Take a trip to Kaitangata in South Otago, or go to Western Southland and visit Nightcaps or Ohai:

* It’s great to see that Invercargill City Council has chosen to heat its pool complex using woodchips rather than lignite:

* Talking of the Summer Festival, it made a big impact on a lot of people. Tarsh Turner wrote this excellent report for Generation Zero’s ClimateTalk blog:

* It’s sometimes easy to forget that we are part of a massive worldwide movement against the mining and burning of coal. Friends of the Earth and Quit Coal have joined with 34 other groups from across Victoria to call for a moratorium on new coal and coal seam gas (CSG) operations in the state:

11. Campaign Resources

You can find lots of campaign resources in one place on the Resources page of our blog at

We have recently uploaded updated versions of:

* The CANA Leaflet:

* The CANA backgrounder on Southland Lignite and the Climate:

Two classic booklets on the theory and practice of nonviolent direct action in Aotearoa/New Zealand are now available as a free download from our blog:

12. CANA online: Blog, Facebook and Twitter


CANA’s blog is at

As well as our latest news, you’ll find pages (shown across the top of the blog) with information and resources you can use. We’ll be reorganising some of this information during the next month to make it easier to find.


CANA has a very active and fast-growing Facebook group at!/groups/218300434877031/

If you’re already a member of the Facebook group, please advertise it on your newsfeed and invite friends to join – and if you’re not on the group, please go to the page and apply to join it.

A Facebook page we encourage you to Like is Leave the Lignite, Save the Soil:!/pages/Leave-the-Lignite-Save-the-Soil/129179047159254

Say No To Fracking in NZ also has a Facebook group:!/groups/saynotofrackingnz/


We are also on Twitter, and we encourage you to follow us there and retweet our tweets (thanks to everyone who has been doing so!):!/coalaction

13. How To Donate to CANA

We reply on your generous donations to keep the campaign going. Here are the account details if you want to donate:

Coal Action Network
38 9011 0484435 00

Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CAN Aotearoa) is a group of climate justice campaigners committed to fighting the continuation of coal mining in Aotearoa New Zealand.

CAN Aotearoa’s objectives are to:
1. Phase out coal mining and coal usage within 20 years, initially by opposing new and expanded coal mines.
2. Promote a cultural change so that mining and using coal are unacceptable.
3. Work towards a society where people and the environment are not exploited for profit.
4. Work towards a socially just transition to a coal-free Aotearoa New Zealand.

Find out more at:
Or join the CAN Aotearoa supporters list by emailing:

Coal Action Murihiku Launches On Anzac Day at ArtSouth Gallery In Gore

Southland anti-coal action group Coal Action Murihiku is having its official launch this Wednesday, 25 April (Anzac Day) at ArtSouth Gallery, 105 Main St, Gore, starting at 6.30pm. All are welcome, but please RSVP by phoning John Purey-Cust phone 03 208 5200 or emailing

This launch takes place in connection with ArtSouth Gallery’s 60 Year Retrospective Exhibition of distinguished Southland artist Wallace Keown:

The launch will be a unique opportunity to hear this Southland artist’s story and passions about what has driven him to produce so many significant works over a life time. ArtSouth will highlight Wallace Keown’s exhibition with a talk by Wallace about his different styles including some of his protest works such as ‘Mataura Billboard-How Green was my Valley’ painted in 1981- in the Muldoon Think Big era. “Mix and mingle with wine and cheese”.

This launch is an important event for Southland anti-coal activists and the movement nationwide. If you live in Southland, we hope you’ll be able to make it, and if you have concerned friends who live in Southland, please let them know about this event.

Denniston Public Meeting To Be Held In Dunedin, Thursday 26 April

Forest and Bird, with Students for Environmental Action and Coal Action Network Aotearoa are organizing a public meeting to expose the issues surrounding proposals to mine public conservation land on the Denniston Plateau.  The meeting will be held on Thursday 26 April in Castle One, Otago University at 7:30.  It is co-sponsored by the Otago Botanical Society and the Entomological Society.

The conservation groups say that the distinctive plateau with its strange rock formations and suite of specialized plants and animals should be protected and the coal left in the ground to help meet New Zealand’s climate protection commitments.

Photographer Rod Morris will show off Denniston’s secretive creatures and spectacular geckos and landscapes, and eminent botanist Sir Alan Mark will tell tussock and other tales about the Denniston’s distinctive plant diversity. Denniston’s lichens will be exposed by Otago University Student Lars Ludwig. Coal Action Network Aotearoa representative Tarsh Turner will discuss the climate change implications of turning Denniston into New Zealand’s largest open cast coal mine.

Australian owned Bathurst Resources has applied to open cast mine and destroy 200ha of public conservation land on the Denniston Plateau and has permits across the plateau which would dig up more than 50 million tonnes of coal.

Tarsh Turner said ‘Mining the Denniston Plateau will significantly increase New Zealand’s coal exports, at a time when we need to be transitioning away from fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate change.’

‘Digging up Denniston is the wrong direction for our valuable clean green image,’ she said.

“Open cast mining will destroy the landscape, and the existing indigenous ecosystems.  These can not be picked up in a digger and replaced,” Forest and Bird’s Otago Southland Field Officer, Sue Maturin says.

Forest and Bird believe the area should remain protected and that mining should be prohibited forever, just as in our National Parks.

Press Release for immediate release: Coal action network to take complaint over Solid Energy market research

Press Release for immediate release:

Coal action network to take complaint over Solid Energy market research

Friday 20 April 2012—The Coal Action Network Aotearoa today accused Solid Energy of carrying out dubious market research to give the impression that there is massive support for coal – and is considering laying a formal complaint at the company’s refusal to release the full results of the research.

CANA has seen some of the research after a member recently took part in what appears to be this year’s annual survey for Solid Energy, research that is similar to a 2009 poll. See (1).

“The questions appear to be designed to produce a particularly positive set of answers that would benefit the company’s public image,” said Kristin Gillies of CANA. “We want to see the full set of questions so we can judge for ourselves.”

The research has been used in company annual reports to back suspiciously positive statements about public attitudes to coal.

“On the basis of Solid’s questioning, you could make anyone agree to pretty much anything and produce some fantastic statistics to it look like the country’s most popular company,” said Gillies. “But most of the statements are patently misleading and have no facts to back them up.”

“Many New Zealanders could agree that swimming with sharks was fine if it created jobs and was good for their health and welfare.”

The campaigning group has written to Solid CEO Don Elder (see letter here ) asking him to release the market research carried out in 2009-11. Solid Energy refused to release this information to members of last week’s Commerce Select Committee, stating that it was “commercially sensitive, confidential and subject to a contract with a provider.”

But this refusal to make the research public is a clear breach of the Market Research Society’s Codes of Practice that state: “researchers shall always be prepared to make available the technical information necessary to assess the validity of any published findings.”

CANA has also asked the research company, Colmar Brunton, for the details of the research. If they, too, refuse, CANA will take a formal complaint to the MRSNZ.

CANA has checked the questions with several experts in market research (2), all of whom agree that the questions are indeed leading and break some very basic rules of objective market research.

“No doubt Don Elder will be using this year’s research to spin to his shareholders – and that’s us, the public – that we are all champing at the bit for Solid Energy to start digging up the world’s dirtiest coal from the beautiful Southland farmland.”

Solid Energy deployed a similar set of questions in its 2009 survey, based on a highly misleading and incorrect statement that made a still-experimental carbon storage technology look like it was already available. (3)

Yet the technology referred to – Carbon Capture and Storage – has not been commercially deployed, not least because of the huge costs involved (4)

“While some may not find it surprising that Solid Energy is carrying out this type of polling, we find it duplicitous of the company to use leading questions in market research to fool its shareholders – us, into thinking there is more support for coal than there actually is.”

“We think it’s time Solid Energy released the full set of questions – and the results – to the public so that we can all judge whether the results posted in its annual reports can be believed.”

Contacts: Kristin Gillies, Coal Action Network Aotearoa 021 065 0460

(1) There were some of the questions:

[On a scale of 5: strongly agree to strongly disagree]
“ Do you agree or disagree with:
Solid energy developing the lignite resource in Southland?
…if it was done without increasing carbon emissions?
…if the earth was returned to its natural state after?
…if it lowered the price of diesel?
…if it created jobs?
…if the local community got special benefits from it?
…if it increased the New Zealand standard of living?
…if it benefited the New Zealand economy?
…if it was done by a New Zealand company?
…if most of the money raised stayed in New Zealand?’

(2) Experts are available to speak with the media

(3) This section began with a statement: “Using coal to produce energy can release pollutants into the air. Are you aware that technology can be used to reduce the release of these pollutants to near zero?” The Questions that followed that began with “…given that emissions can be used to reduce the release of these pollutants to near zero…”
That year, Solid Energy’s Annual report stated, on page 2,
“Almost two thirds [of New Zealanders] think we should make greater use of our coal resources… and 84% are more positive if technology is used to reduce pollutant emissions.”

(4) For example, this recent BBC on efforts to deploy the technology in the UK

Solid Energy Market Research Under Scrutiny

The Coal Action Network Aotearoa today accused Solid Energy of carrying out dubious market research to give the impression that there is massive support for coal – and is considering laying a formal complaint at the company’s refusal to release the full results of the research.

The following letter has been sent to Don Elder demanding answers….

Don Elder
Solid Energy
15 Show Place, Addington
New Zealand

18 April 2012

Dear Mr Elder

I am writing to in relation to your market research over the last three years.
We are very concerned about:

a) Solid Energy’s statements in your annual reports about public support for coal
b) The nature of the survey undertaken by Colmar Brunton on behalf of Solid Energy which appears to us to be leading the respondent towards supporting coal.

In Solid Energy’s annual reports for 2009, 2010, 2011 you have printed statements quoting research by Colmar Brunton. (,186,393,0/Annual-Report.html):

• 2009 on page two of your annual report, a statement saying:
“Almost two thirds [of New Zealanders] think we should make greater use of our coal resources… and 84% are more positive if technology is used to reduce pollutant emissions.”
Research carried out for Solid Energy by Colmar Brunton from 14 April to 11 May 2009 (1,000 respondents; margin of error +/- 3%).”

• You have published similar results in its annual reports in 2010 and 2011 and, no doubt, will do so again this year, based on the questions in the telephone survey experienced by one of our members in recent weeks.

The following clauses in the Market Research Society of New Zealand’s Code of Practice for market researchers are relevant here:

From MRSNZ Code of Practice, page 5

Article 11 – Publishing findings

(b) Where any of the findings of a research project are published by the client, the latter shall be asked to consult with the researcher as to the form and content of publication of the findings. Both the client and the researcher have a responsibility to ensure that published results are not misleading.

(c) Researchers shall always be prepared to make available the technical information necessary to assess the validity of any published findings.

(d) Researchers shall not allow their name to be associated with the dissemination of conclusions from a market research project unless they are adequately supported by the data.

I have looked at both your website and that of Colmar Brunton and I cannot find any details about the research mentioned in the Solid Energy Financial Report. I understand that you have also declined to give the research to members of the Commerce Select Committee.

My questions in relation to Solid Energy’s annual reports are:
1) I would like to receive the technical information in order to assess the validity of the published findings and would also like the information to be made publicly available. This would include information about the method for the survey, sampling method, sample size, full verbatim wording of the questions asked and the context in which the question was asked (for example if one statement out of a number of statements).

2) Did you consult Colmar Brunton before publishing the results in your Annual Reports?

3) Did Colmar Brunton agree with the summaries you published?

We have concerns that the polls included leading questions based on two incidents:

a) One of our members was called two weeks ago in a market research survey about Solid Energy. Attached is the set of questions asked in the survey, as taken down at the time by the person surveyed.

b) In 2009 a Colmar Brunton researcher called another of our members, Cindy Baxter, for a similar survey for Solid Energy and the questions were in a similar vein. She complained at the time to Colmar Brunton’s then Chief Executive about the set of questions because they did not agree with Q20 in particular (see appendix).

The objections at the time were around the validity of the statement in Q20, because it was patently untrue. It stated that technology been developed to “reduce emissions to near zero”. However, that technology had not, at the time, been developed to commercial readiness, still hasn’t, and all the reports around it show how it would be so expensive as to be unlikely to be commercially ready for years – certainly not in time to stop runaway climate change.

I am also concerned about the leading nature of the questions in the 2009 and 2012 surveys and that the questions assume some knowledge of the subject in order to answer adequately. The statements present only positive statements about coal, some of which cannot be proved or quantified. Without the technical detail to back-up the survey, the reader of the Solid Energy Annual Reports has no way of judging for themselves the validity of the statements.

I would very much appreciate an answer to the three questions that we have asked in relation to the Code of Practice as shown on the website of the Market Research Society. Not releasing the full research we are requesting is, in our view, a breach of those codes of practice.


Kristin Gillies
Appendix 1
Questions from recent survey with a Coal Action Network Aotearoa member as a respondent

In the 2012 survey, a set of questions was asked around the mining of lignite in Southland.

Answer with the following scale:
Agree Strongly
Disagree Strongly

Do you agree or disagree with:
1. Solid energy developing the lignite resource in Southland?
…if it was done without increasing carbon emissions?
…if the earth was returned to its natural state after?
…if it lowered the price of diesel?
…if it created jobs?
…if the local community got special benefits from it?
…if it increased the New Zealand standard of living?
…if it benefited the NZ economy?
…if it was done by a New Zealand company?
…if most of the money raised stayed in New Zealand?

Other questions included:
* Are you aware Solid Energy is planning to develop the lignite resource in Southland?
* Are you aware lignite can be used to make diesel/fertiliser?
* Are you aware lignite can be used to heat homes?

Question asked of Cindy Baxter in 2009

Question 20: “using coal to produce energy can release pollutants into the air. Are you aware that technology can be used to reduce the release of these pollutants to near zero?”

The questions then went on to ask a series, much like the ones above, preceded by the statement:

“Given that technology can be used to reduce the release of these pollutants to near zero…”

This set of questions appears to correlate to this statement in Solid Energy’s 2009 Annual report (page 2):

“Almost two thirds [of New Zealanders] think we should make greater use of our coal resources… and 84% are more positive if technology is used to reduce pollutant emissions”

Do You Want Mining Companies To Have Easier Access To Your Land?

The Government is currently reviewing the Crown Minerals Act 1991, and submissions on the review close on Friday 20 April. We think it’s a good idea for as many people as possible to submit on this review – so, if making submissions is your thing, this is a good thing to submit on.

Why? Well, to address the headline issue first, there have been suggestions that the Government plans to use this review to water down or even remove the provisions in the Crown Minerals Act that currently give private landowners the right to refuse mining companies access to their land. We think this might be quite an unpopular change, not least with farmers.

But there are other, wider matters worth commenting on, as outlined in the excellent submission guide on the Green Party blog at – the following bullet points come from the Green Party submission guide:

  • Currently the Crown Minerals Act allows the Government to grant permits for deep sea oil drilling. We suggest amending the Crown Minerals Act to prohibit permits for prospecting, exploration and production of oil in waters greater than 200 metres deep. Deep sea oil drilling is too risky.
  • Under the Crown Minerals Act, the Government grants permits for oil and gas exploration that allow companies to use the controversial practice of fracking – pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure deep into the earth in order to extract oil and gas. Please tell the Government that oil and gas exploration permits should not allow fracking until the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment can assure the public it is safe.
  • Mining and extraction has adverse effects on landforms, oceans, waterways and ecosystems. It is currently prohibited in National Parks and various other types of reserve, but under the Crown Minerals Act 1991 it occurs contentiously in other parts of the conservation estate. Tell the Government to amend the Crown Minerals Act to prohibit new exploration, prospecting and mining on conservation land and reserves.

The Green Party submission guide lists many more aspects of the review that you can comment on, and tells you the ways that you can make a submission. Here is some further information:

Submissions due: 5pm Friday 20 April 2012

Postal address: Resources Policy Group, Ministry of Economic Development, PO Box 1473, Wellington 6140

There are a series of review questions that the Ministry is asking for feedback on, and of particular interest is Chapter 2: Health, safety and environmental (HSE) matters. It is a fairly short chapter to read and worth giving feedback on! Also of interest are Chapter 4: Petroleum, and Chapter 5: Tier 1 Minerals, especially the review questions relating to HSE matters.

Submissions due on Mixed Ownership Model Bill & Crown Minerals Act Review

There are two important submissions deadlines looming that may be of interest to many of you:

  1. The Mixed Ownership Model Bill, submissions due on Friday 13 April
  2. The Review of the Crown Minerals Act Regime, submissions due Friday 20 April.

We have included links to the relevant discussion documents and submission guides, helpfully prepared by other groups.

We are aware that these two pieces of legislation are core pieces of National’s policy and that the Government will be reluctant to change either of them. However, we feel it is important to show the extent of the opposition to these proposed legislative changes as they are both likely to lead to a significant increase in coal mining in New Zealand.

If our many submissions are ignored, we expect to have to show opposition in other ways!

1. Mixed Ownership Model Bill

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill needs to be passed in order for the government to begin the sale of state owned assets. National has identified a number of state-owned energy companies that it wishes to partly privatize, including Solid Energy. If Solid Energy is privatized, this will provide foreign investment to kick start Solid Energy’s bigger lignite plans, and also make it harder for a future New Zealand government to impose restrictions on Solid Energy’s coal mining activities.

This is an opportunity to show the government the level of opposition to asset sales, so we would encourage people to put together a short (or long!) submission outlining why you are opposed to these plans. The Green Party has put together a great submission guide online, check it out at:

Submissions due: 5pm Friday 13 April

Address submissions to: The Chairperson, Finance and Expenditure Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Or make an online submission at

2. Review of the Crown Minerals Act Regime

The Crown Minerals Act Regime is also under review. The purpose of the review is to “encourage the development of Crown-owned minerals so that they contribute more to New Zealand’s economic development; streamline and simplify the regime; and to ensure better coordination of regulatory agencies.” BUT! Many of the proposed changes will erode the already weak regulatory regime and open the country up further to mining.

We encourage you to take time to read the discussion paper and the proposed changes to the petroleum and minerals regime. Details at

The Green Party has information about the Crown Minerals Act Review and a sample submission here:

Submissions due: 5pm Friday 20 April 2012

Postal address: Resources Policy Group, Ministry of Economic Development, PO Box 1473, Wellington 6140


There are a series of review questions that the Ministry is asking for feedback on, and of particular interest is Chapter 2: Health, safety and environmental (HSE) matters. It is a fairly short chapter to read and worth giving feedback on! Also of interest are Chapter 4: Petroleum, and Chapter 5: Tier 1 Minerals, especially the review questions relating to HSE matters.

The Green Party Mining Our Future Community Tour

Green Party MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Hughes are holding a series of hui to discuss the Government’s broad “drill it, mine it” agenda for Aotearoa:

What’s happening, what does it mean to our environment and communities and how do we stop it? These meetings are aimed at groups and individuals who are interested and engaged in working to protect Aotearoa from the destructive social and environmental impacts of mining.
From coal (lignite and conventional), gold, iron sands and other mineral mining to fracking and deep sea oil drilling there is a broad agenda of resource extraction on the table. We would like to discuss with you your concerns and the impacts, risks and opportunities towards clean alternatives and a green economy.

Auckland – Wednesday 11th April, 7 – 9pm
Lecture Theatre B15, Library Basement, University of Auckland

Hamilton – Monday 16th April, 7 – 9pm
Trade Union Centre, 34 Harwood Street

Wellington – Tuesday 17th April, 7 – 8.30pm
Mezzanine Room, Wellington Library, 65 Victoria Street

Christchurch – Thursday 19th April, 7 – 9pm
Workers Educational Association, 59 Gloucester Street

Dunedin – Monday 30th April, 7.30 – 9.30pm
Practice Room, Clubs and Societies Building, 84 Albany Street

For more information contact Alina Siegfried on 04 801 5297 or

The Good Times Are Over For Solid Energy

At today’s Commerce Select Committee hearing on Solid Energy’s financial review, opposition members of the committee and a packed public gallery left Solid Energy bosses in no doubt that the good times are over.

Solid Energy’s top brass, expecting to get their tummies rubbed by compliant Government members of the Committee, instead suffered the discomfort of a public grilling by Opposition members on topics including the financial viability of the Southland lignite proposals and the consequences of Asset Sales for the Crown’s shareholding – and health and safety issues.

As if that wasn’t enough, at the end of the hearing, the public gallery left Don Elder and his colleagues and the Government in no doubt of the depth of opposition to Solid Energy’s plans to open up massive new coal and lignite mines by standing in unison with a 5m-long sign saying “keep the coal in the hole: protect the climate.”

Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Tim Jones, who was present at the hearing, said “Solid Energy and the Government had better get used to this. The massive new coal and lignite mines that Solid Energy plans to open, with the Government’s backing, would be disastrous for the climate and ruinous for the local environment. That’s why we are committed to stopping these proposals going ahead.”

“New Zealanders have repeatedly demonstrated that we do not want our environment ripped apart and the climate ruined by fossil fools like Solid Energy and the current Government,” Tim Jones continued. “Just two weeks ago, Wellington told John Key loud and clear that we do not support his pro-mining agenda when he opened the Wellington offices of Aussie coalminers Bathurst resources.”

“Today, we delivered the same message to Solid Energy. It’s a message that’s so clear even Don Elder and this Government should be able to understand it: Keep the Coal in the Hole.

“Of course, that’s not a message Don Elder wants to hear,” said Tim Jones. “He’s much happier collecting his $1.4 million annual salary and swanning around the stage at international mining conferences. But he’d better get used to it, because until Solid Energy drops its plans for new coal and lignite mines, he’s going to hear it again and again and again.”


Coal in the Hole in Select Committee

Coal in the Hole on the steps of Parliament

Photographer Rod Morris brings Denniston wildlife to Auckland

Photographer Rod Morris brings the story of Denniston’s unique native plants and animals to Auckland in photographs and his eloquent words. Denniston is where Bathurst Resources, the Australian mining company at whose Wellington office opening CANA, Forest and Bird and other groups recently protested, wants to open up a massive new open-cast coalmine.

Rod will be speaking twice in Auckland:

  • Auckland Museum auditorium, Wednesday 4th April, 7pm
  • Mt Albert Unitec, Thursday 5th April, 7.30pm

The talks are free to Forest & Bird members and Auckland Museum Institute members, and $10 for others.

For more information on these events, see

For some of Rod’s gorgeous Denniston photos, see

Rod will also be speaking in the lower North Island and South Island in May and June. Once these dates have been confirmed, we will include them in our upcoming newsletters.