Monthly Archives: June 2012

Coal Action Network Aotearoa Newsletter June 2012

Kia ora koutou,

It’s been another busy month for the campaign against new and expanded coalmining – of course, that’s true of every month!

This month, we take a look at what Solid Energy has been up to lately, and their future plans – both what has been released publicly, and some inside information that we’ve acquired.

The coal industry is clearly getting nervous about the pressure that anti-coal campaigns are putting on them. Mining industry lobby group Straterra spent a portion of its PR budget writing a pro-coal article for the Christchurch Press, to which we promptly responded. The coal industry is easily annoyed – so we’ve included a helpful guide to good ways of annoying them.

We’ve also got information on how you can get involved in the campaign for a Citizens’ Initiated Referendum on asset sales, and campaign news and events from round the country.

Our May newsletter was our first to be sent out using the MailChimp mailing list software. If you had any problems reading that newsletter, please let us know by emailing coalactionnetwork@gmail.com so we can iron out any problems.

Regards
Tim Jones
Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Contents

1. Coming Events
2. Asset Sales Campaign Update: Referendum Signatures and July Day of Action
3. Solid Energy Watch
4. How To Annoy The Coal Industry
5. Coal Seam Gas: New Threat to Taranaki and Southland
6. Climate Change, The Courts And The Mt William North Hearing
7. Forest and Bird Annual Conference 2012 Report
8. Regional News
9. News Snippets and Resources
10. CANA online: Blog, Facebook and Twitter
11. How To Donate To CANA

1. Coming Events

Asset Sales Campaign Day of ActionSaturday 14 July. See http://aotearoaisnotforsale.com/ for details.

Remaining Denniston Tour Events
There are two events remaining on Rod Morris’s speaking tour about the need to preserve the Denniston Plateau from coal mining:
*26 June, Te Anau: details TBA
*10 July, Invercargill: 7.30pm, Invercargill Masonic Lodge, 86 Forth St

Regional Group Meetings
Canterbury Coal Action: Unfortunately, Wednesday’s Canterbury Coal Action meeting at the WEA has had to be cancelled due to venue unavailability – please contact canterburycoalaction@gmail.com for details of the next meeting
Auckland Coal Action: Saturday 14 July, Quaker House, 113 Mt Eden Rd, 10am. New members welcome.

Conferences and Tours
6-8 July: ECO Conference, Wellington. See http://www.eco.org.nz/what-we-do/eco-conference-2012-2.html for details. Early bird registration has been extended until 2 July.
18-26 August: Tour by Drew Hutton from Lock the Gates Alliance. Locations to be finalised. CANA is supporting this tour.
25-26 August: Keep this weekend free in your diaries as there will be a conference in Rotorua on the alternatives to mining – details to follow.

Ecumenical Environmental Conference
5-7 October, St John’s in the City, Wellington. See http://lamenthopeactionconference.eventbrite.co.nz/ for details. Organised by Caritas, A Rocha and the Otago University Centre for Theology and Public Issues

2. Asset Sales Campaign

a) Getting the Numbers: How You Can Help The Asset Sales Referendum Campaign
As you may have heard, signatures are currently being collected for a petition calling for a Citizens’ Initiated Referendum (CIR) against the Government’s proposed asset sales. If the petition gets enough valid signatures, the Government cannot prevent the referendum from being held.

From a Coal Action Network Aotearoa perspective, we are most concerned about the planned privatisation of Solid Energy, which may allow them to raise investment capital for their planned massive lignite projects in Southland. Solid Energy is towards the back of the queue for privatisation. That means that, even if some asset sales have occurred by the time the referendum takes place, we should do everything we can to mobilise political opposition to the remaining sales.

The wording of the referendum question will be:

Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

For the referendum to go ahead, the promoters of the referendum need to obtain over 300,000 valid signatures on the petition – that is, the signatures of people who are on the electoral roll, with their name and address details listed as they are on the electoral roll.

That makes collecting signatures a job that has to be done carefully and well. And that’s why we’d like Coal Action Network Aotearoa supporters to help with the signature-gathering process.

You can do so by going to the Keep Our Assets website at http://keepourassets.org.nz/. This is where you can download the petition form, and find out how to get more involved in the campaign at
http://keepourassets.org.nz/help-build-the-campaign/.

Christchurch event information is here: https://www.facebook.com/events/254862264628627/

If you have already signed the AVAAZ petition against the bill that is currently going through Parliament, you should still sign the Citizens’ Initiated Referendum petition as well. Passing the bill does not sell the assets – it just makes it legally possible. It will still take months after that before they can float companies on the sharemarket.

Solid Energy does enough damage as it is. Let’s make it as difficult as possible for the Government to make matters even worse. Recent events show that this Government will buckle when sufficient political pressure is exerted on them.

b) 14 July 2012: “Aotearoa Is Still Not For Sale” Day of Action
There’s another day of action coming up for the Aotearoa is Not For Sale campaign, as announced on http://aotearoaisnotforsale.com/ :

“Aotearoa NZ is STILL not for sale!” All around the country, we will be putting aside past differences and showing the strength of the people as one on July 14, 2012.

Saturday July 14 will see a march and people’s festival with stalls and music happening in Auckland from 2pm, meeting at Britomart and marching with defiance up Queen Street to reclaim our streets once more. We will bring the march to Myers Park to enjoy festivities into the late afternoon. We warmly call upon all other areas of Aotearoa New Zealand to organise actions on this day as well, and coordinate with the Auckland group using this website to gain support, inspiration and information.

Check the http://aotearoaisnotforsale.com/ website for details of actions around the country, or go to the Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/AotearoaIsNotForSaleNZ

3. Solid Energy Watch

The campaign against Solid Energy’s planned massive lignite mining and processing plants in Southland is central to Coal Action Network Aotearoa’s strategy as a whole, because if Solid Energy’s plans for massive lignite-to-urea and lignite-to-diesel plants go ahead, the mining and burning of this low-grade brown coal will lead to billions of tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions. Plus, of course, coal mining is bad for local communities, bad for the local environment, and bad for human health.

So what’s been going on in Southland? On the one hand, Solid Energy has been getting on with building its pilot briquetting plant in Craigs Road, about 5km south of Mataura. On the other hand, Southland anti-coal activists have come together under the banner of Coal Action Murihiku, which held its launch on Anzac Day this year, and are building the anti-lignite campaign both in front of and behind the scenes.

Check out the Coal Action Murihiku report below under Regional Reports for more news on the growth of the anti-lignite campaign. For now, let’s turn the spotlight on Solid Energy itself and its plans.

a) Inside information on Solid Energy’s plans
We recently acquired some inside information about Solid Energy’s plans. Such information must always be taken with several teaspoons of salt, but is interesting nevertheless.
Apparently, construction of the pilot briquetting plant is due to finish in about a month. Then it will go into a commissioning’ stage and that will take another month – so the opening is still a couple of months away.

According to our source, the next phase of work will be the lignite to urea plant. Our source did not mention the 10x bigger briquetting plant that Solid Energy had previously said it was planning, though the source may be out of the loop with regards to this particular plant.

It’s still not decided whether the new mine to feed this plant will be at Croydon or Mataura. Our source claims that this mine is expected to be just a bit bigger than New Vale but will be dug up and emptied much faster, then covered up as they move on to digging the next area up – thus gradually ploughing its way through Eastern Southland’s prime farmland. Solid Energy expect that they will need 200 workers for the mine and another 150 workers for the plant – but that’s a few years away at least, even on Solid Energy’s timeline.

If you have any interesting news for us, about Solid Energy’s plans or anything else, please feel free to email us at coalactionnetwork@gmail.com.

b) The Shrinking Jobs Bonanza
It’s funny how the claimed number of jobs to be created by Solid Energy’s Southland lignite projects keeps going down. Lignite boosters were tossing around job numbers in the high thousands when the plans were first announced – now, even our Solid Energy insider is talking about 350 jobs total from the lignite-to-urea project.
And how many jobs for locals is the pilot briquetting plant expected to create? Five. That’s right, five jobs. Welcome to the lignite jobs bonanza, everyone!

c) New Exploration Licence
Not content with the 4000ha they already control, Solid Energy has been granted additional lignite exploration licences south and east of their current ones, and near the area where L&M mining have exploration licences – see https://data.nzpam.govt.nz/PermitWebMaps/StaticReport.aspx?permit=54004 for the details. And, as noted below under “Coal Seam Gas”, they are also prospecting for coal seam gas in Southland.

d) John Palmer Steps Down as Solid Energy Board Chair
Solid Energy board chairperson John Palmer has stepped down, saying that he doesn’t want to stay on to see the company through the privatisation process. It would be lovely to think that this is because he’s ideologically opposed to privatisation, but in fact he’s been one of its chief proponents. The story is here: http://www.3news.co.nz/Solid-Energy-chairman-quits-at-65/tabid/423/articleID/258829/Default.aspx

Maybe Don Elder will take this as a sign he should step down as well…

4. How To Annoy The Coal Industry

Like any well-funded industry group, the coal industry is used to having things its own way. They have easy access to their mates in Government, plenty of money to splash around, and a bunch of well-appointed head offices that are sufficiently removed from their mining operations that they don’t have to encounter the ugliness of what coal mining actually entails.So it’s not surprising that they get annoyed when people challenge them. And we think it would be a good idea if they got annoyed more often. Here is our handy guide to annoying the coal lobby.

a) Challenge Their PR Spin
When a coal industry flack uses the media to claim that coal mining is vital to New Zealand’s future, that our energy system would fall over without coal, that nowadays coal is all clean and modern and shiny, etc., don’t let them get away with it. Write letters or comments in response, and let us know about coal industry PR so we can prepare a response.

Case in point: The following article by mining industry lobbyist Chris Baker appeared in the Christchurch Press on 13 June: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/7092765/Coal-helps-fire-economy

Canterbury Coal Action got in touch to let CANA know about the article, and we prepared a response which appeared the following Wednesday, 20 June: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/7134638/Coal-mining-catastrophe

If the coal industry pops up in your local media telling everyone how wonderful coal is, let us know by emailing coalactionnetwork@gmail.com

b) Show Up Where They Show Up
The coal industry doesn’t just fill newspaper column inches – it arranges events for itself as well, like lovely conferences in popular resorts, or Prime Ministerial office openings: https://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/bathurst-protest-a-big-success/.

Call us party-poopers, but we like to turn up at such events and remind the insiders and hangers-on who attend these things that the real issue isn’t the quality of the canapés but the fate of the planet, and that the expansion of their industry must be and will be stopped. So, if you find out that there is a coal industry event in your area, get busy. Organise a welcome for those attending that reminds them what the real issues are, and again, let CANA know: coalactionnetwork@gmail.com.

c) Bring It All Back Home
The coal industry in New Zealand is not all about massive projects for export. It’s also about the coal-fired boiler in your local school or hospital or factory. Getting these boilers converted to run on a renewable energy source such as wood is good for the local environment, good for the renewable fuels industry, and good for the climate. It also gives campaigners all around the country, even those who live a long way from the big coal projects, a local focus. If you are interested in finding out more about coal use in your community, let us know: coalactionnetwork@gmail.com.

5. Coal Seam Gas: New Threat to Taranaki and Southland

Solid Energy is talking up the potential of coal seam gas: that is, deliberately releasing the potent greenhouse gas methane from coal seams. Many coal seam gas operations use fracking.
Does that sound like your idea of a good time? Well, if you live in Taranaki or Southland, Solid Energy plans to bring coal seam gas to your doorstep.

6. Climate change, the courts and the Mt William North hearing

a) The Mt William North Hearing: Ignorance, Intimidation and Elephants
Rosemary Penwarden wrote this excellent report on the Mt William North coal mine consent hearings, which you can also see on our blog – with pictures – at https://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/the-mt-william-north-hearings-ignorance-intimidation-and-elephants/:

Sharon McGarry thinks carbon dioxide makes holes in the ozone layer.

No, not a year nine science student but a commissioner; one of three in Westport recently entrusted with the task of unravelling the scientific and economic data pertinent to the next mountaintop removal on the Stockton Plateau –Mt William North.

The realisation that Ms McGarry did not have even a basic grasp of the science behind climate change was a shock, but the whole experience of submitting at this council hearing was a series of curious events.

I was at the Westport Bridge Club to speak to my submission opposing Solid Energy’s proposal to mine 5.4 million tonnes of new coal at Mt William. If mined, this coal will send approximately 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, widen even more the gap between reality and our international emissions obligations, further shred our clean green image, and destroy more endangered flora and fauna on the plateau.

Less than two weeks before the hearing submitters received a letter telling us that, due to the recent Environment Court declaration, the commissioners were “not able to have regard to any evidence or submissions concerning the effects on climate change of discharges into air arising from the subsequent burning of coal.”

Yes, that’s right, our supreme environmental statute, the RMA, is legally unable to consider the greatest environmental threat facing humanity; climate change. Even though this ruling is under appeal the commissioners chose not to delay the Mt William hearing.

Some of us still spoke about climate change, understanding it would be ignored. We also talked about ocean acidification, another effect of CO2 emissions not ruled out in the commissioner’s letter. With a wave of her arm Ms McGarry dismissed such talk: “We all know CO2 makes holes in the ozone”. After a short silence of disbelief it became clear that ocean acidification was also going to be banned, along with climate change. Curious how the rules appeared to change as the day progressed.

Curious too, was the presence of 20 or so Solid Energy workers in the back of the room dressed in orange safety gear and boots. They looked a little out of place accepting tea and bikkies from the lovely Bridge Club lady.

Then again, those of us opposing the proposal had brought our own curious sight – an elephant, sitting in the front row taking notes, dreads tied neatly back. At lunchtime he stood outside the entrance with a placard “Say NO to New Coal Extraction” while an orange-coated ‘worker’ shovelled coal under a carpet and a large banner explained to passers by and to the orange-garbed Solid Energy workers: “Climate Change is the Elephant in the Room”.

Standing nearby taking photographs was yet another curious sight – a dark suited character straight out of an American crime show. It turned out he worked for ProVision, also called Thompson and Clark Investigations Ltd, the agency caught out in 2007 for planting spies in the ranks of the Happy Valley protesters – paid for by Solid Energy: see http://www.nickyhager.info/i-was-paid-to-betray-protesters/

Opposers to Solid Energy’s application had been allocated the whole day to speak. We represented individuals and groups, locals and ‘outsiders’, whitebaiters, grandmothers, doctors and environmentalists.

I did not get my turn until the following morning. By then the workers in their safety gear had gone, replaced by Solid Energy’s demurely attired ecologist. No shady character outside. It seemed the commissioners needed only hear one more ‘pesky’ environmentalist, then get back to business. I had come 700 km to speak on behalf of myself and two other submitters, but the commissioners wanted to dismiss my second and third submissions without even hearing them. After I finished, as I left the room I could see it being cosily re-arranged so the Commissioners and their “friends” could finish the hearing in a more informal setting.

Then it was the local councils’ turn. I don’t hold out much hope for the councils; they don’t seem to take climate change that seriously. New developments are permitted at sea level all along the Coast. The Regional Council’s own fancy new building at Greymouth appears to rely on a few sand dunes to combat sea level rise.

The next day I visited Mordor (Stockton) itself, stood on black sludge 30 metres below where Mt Augustus should have been – mountaintop removal, Kiwi style. I looked over to Happy Valley, now renamed the Cypress Extension in an attempt to erase its colourful history of protest. The contrast between that untouched valley, the mountain beyond, and the hell below my feet was distressing. The land reclamation is a joke. Up there, anything at an angle greater than 16 degrees gets washed away. You can’t put a mountain back.

Beyond Happy Valley sat Mt William. Mt William, the next mountain top removal project. Or not? Will Sharon McGarry save the day?

b) Denniston Legal Action Update

Jeanette Fitzsimons reports:

Following the Environment Court decision that climate change can not be taken into account in RMA decisions, the appeal against the consent for the Denniston mine is set to proceed in the Environment Court in late October. The appeal will be mainly on the grounds of loss of very special biodiversity and landscape; plus possibly some economics argument.

Thus the elephant in the room – the huge threat to people and nature from accelerating climate change – will remain silent. This means consent could be given and mining started while appeals on the legal question are still to be heard – in the Court of Appeal and possibly the Supreme Court. Potentially the Environment Court appeal against the consent could have to be heard all over again if a higher court overturns the decision on the relevance of climate change to the decision. Alice in Wonderland, anyone?

7. Forest and Bird Annual Conference 2012 Report

The Forest and Bird Annual Conference 2012, with the theme “Face Up to the Future”, was held in Wellington in mid-June. You can find out lots about the conference on the Forest & Bird website at http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/conference2012

CANA had a stall at the conference and distributed leaflets and flyers to Conference delegates. CANA’s Tarsh Turner was one of the speakers featured in the conference “Face up to the Future” video, hosted by Te Radar – you can find the full video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2YtRcictBQ, while Tarsh’s contribution starts at 2:11 – http://youtu.be/t2YtRcictBQ?t=2m11s.
CANA organizing group member Jenny Campbell was in the room to hear Tarsh speak, and here are her impressions of the event, followed by Tarsh’s own thoughts.

Jenny Campbell writes:
I was privileged to be at Forest and Bird’s national conference in Wellington last weekend, held at Te Papa.

The highlight for me was the Friday evening panel of young people stating their case and passion about and for the environment, all ably facilitated by Te Radar. Even though he made light of many comments, the seriousness of the conversations and issues did not escape him. He had obviously done his homework and could interact and challenge the panel as well as add constructive comments which ensured the messages from the young people were not lost on the audience.

Our CANA organising group member, Tarsh Turner, spoke eloquently and with conviction about her stand on the lignite issue and particularly as it relates to climate change. Her initial nervousness soon dissipated as she entered the debates, offered her opinions, listened to others, offered alternatives and stressed the need for change. She did us proud of course and even when she spoke about what makes her angry and on the topic of intergenerational justice/injustice, she continued to win the audience with her beautiful smile.

My overall impression was of the high calibre of young people we have working with conviction, enthusiasm and knowledge who are not afraid to tell it how it is. This generation is not about meetings but about action – galvanised to take action through social media – not necessarily through lots of talking. We in CANA need to heed this message. The wisdom, insight, humour and listening skills of the panel were impressive. Thank you Tarsh for being prepared to participate and drive our message home – you were impressive!

This model of engagement is one we could well use at other events – particularly with young people although the facilitator needs to be particularly skilled as Te Radar obviously is. It was telling that another young person in the audience reminded us all that the grey haired people in the room had been angry, frustrated and felt intergenerational injustice as well in their youth, and that this was why many had joined F&B in their youth – to do something with their anger to make a difference, and that was why they were still participating today.

Kia kaha Tarsh, rangimarie, Jenny Campbell

Tarsh Turner writes:
Participating on the Youth Panel at the Forest & Bird Conference was an empowering experience. My fellow panellists were some of the most articulate young people I have met, and we had a lively two hour discussion canvassing issues as seemingly disparate as shark finning, declining water quality in NZ rivers, pest management, and intergenerational justice.

Despite this breadth, I think I must have gotten across my message about the urgent need to phase out coal, because when we were asked in the question session what it is that makes each of us angry, Te Radar quipped “let me guess, is it coal that makes you angry Tarsh?”

The opportunity to bring this discussion into the conservation context was something that meant a lot to me. It is a crucially important link to make, given projections such as that 200-300 of New Zealand’s alpine plant species will become extinct at a 4°C mean global temperature rise; we are currently on track for a 3-6°C rise, and the world has enough economically recoverable coal to increase global temperature by 15°C! I hope to engage with Forest & Bird further on these issues in the future.

For more, see Tarsh’s blog: http://climateninja.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/fb-conference-nature-of-tommorow-youth-panel-4-2/

Concluding note:
Forest and Bird and CANA have worked closely together on a number of campaigns in the past year, together with other groups, especially the campaign against further coal mining on the Denniston plateau, and the organisation of the Bathurst Resources Wellington office opening protest (see https://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2012/03/22/bathurst-protest-a-big-success/). We look forward to carrying on this association in the years ahead.

8. Regional News

Southland: Coal Action Murihiku (CAM)

Jenny Campbell reports:

Three posters featuring a painting by local artist, Wallace Keown, are drawing attention from passers-by on the main street of Gore. The art work compares the past and present attractions of the Mataura Valley with the future ‘attractions’ (courtesy of lignite mining), along with strong messages about our valuable farmland. They have been put on three long poster strips and pasted up on a large billboard. Good local publicity followed just before Queen’s Birthday and Gore’s huge annual event, the Gold Guitars.

CAM’s regular monthly meetings show that members have no shortage of bright ideas for ways to make their point about lignite mining.

Recently, CAM, Forest & Bird, Generation Zero and Greenpeace members of all ages got together for a working bee spent chopping and splitting wood that will be sold as a fundraiser. Robina and Alan Johnston took people up to a vantage point from where they could see the huge swathe of farmland that Solid Energy is proposing to destroy with an open cast lignite mine.

Solid Energy has increased its infiltration and influence in the Gore area with massive sponsorship of local events: NZSO members making school visits for music tuition, Sir Graham Henry speaking engagements, sports uniforms, Gold Guitar… It puts CAM’s wood-splitting efforts into perspective and shows how long and hard this campaign will be. We realise pacing ourselves is important.

CAM members Dave Kennedy, Robina-Lee Johnston and Zella Horrell showed PowerPoints and spoke to the Southland Forest & Bird monthly meeting in early June. They spoke about the Southland concerns around lignite, the urgency for action and local impacts especially about loss of valuable farmland. The mining situation and impacts in Australia were highlighted. They intend to take their ‘show’ to various community groups around Southland, e.g. Lions, Rotary, Rural Women, U3A, to raise awareness and provide educational information in contrast to Solid Energy.

Our first regular CAM newsletter has been put together for circulation with skilled people stepping up to the mark. Our next event will be our NVDA (nonviolent direct action) training weekend in Invercargill at the end of June, run by CANA organising group member Kristin Gillies.

The opening of the pilot briquetting plant at Mataura is the next event of interest to our group. A total of 5 local people from Gore, Mataura and Invercargill have been employed by SE (plant costs $25 k) and SE are proud they are supporting local employment as they said they would!!!

I was in Whangarei recently and heard of their real concerns about proposed mining in Northland and what it would do to their waterways, oceans, people re health, social impacts, soil and was impressed with their efforts to fight these proposals. Rod Morris’ slide show on Denniston was impressive as he stressed the intrinsic values of that area and why it should not be mined. I updated people on the lignite issue in Southland – being a ‘guest speaker’ had not been my aim but thank you to the generosity of the organisers for this chance to show solidarity and share our campaigns: we are in this together for the long haul.

Rangimarie,
Jenny Campbell, Co-Convenor, CAM

Dunedin: Southern Anti-Coal Action (SACA)
Rosemary Penwarden and Tarsh Turner report:

One thousand Dunedinites marched up George Street to the Octagon on Saturday 16 June to protest against the Government’s plan to sell our state owned assets: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/dunedin/213635/over-moon-keep-our-assets-protest-draws-1000

Heaps more signatures were collected and work continues to gather the 300,000 needed for the Citizens Initiated Referendum to go ahead.
.
A bunch of SEA (Students for Environmental Action) and SACA members are having an adventure over the Uni holidays (first week of July) to see the Denniston Plateau in all its glory before it becomes NZ’s largest open cast coal mine! The aim is to connect with this area that we have been campaigning on, experience its beauty firsthand, and have a fun break away. Transport is limited, but people should email SEAotago@gmail.com if interested.

On Saturday 14 July, Tarsh Turner will be speaking on behalf of CANA at SocialistSaturday, an event organised by the International Socialists (ISO), on a panel about confronting the environmental crisis.Email contact@iso.org.nzor phone 022 6799417 for more details.

On Wednesday 18 July, Rosemary Penwarden will speak on behalf of CANA at the SDC (Sustainable Dunedin City) AGM, updating members on the Southland lignite issue, venue to be announced.

Christchurch: Canterbury Coal Action

Unfortunately, Wednesday’s Canterbury Coal Action meeting at the WEA has had to be cancelled due to venue unavailability – please contact canterburycoalaction@gmail.com for details of the next meeting.

Wellington: “Keep the Coal in the Hole” gatherings
Tim Jones reports:

The next meeting of the “Keep the Coal in the Hole” Wellington group will be on Thursday 28 June, around the time this newsletter goes out. We’ll be learning more about the transition to renewable energy sources and planning our next moves. We expect to have more to report in the next newsletter.

If you’d like to get involved in Wellington anti-coal action, please contact frances.mountier@gmail.com for further details.

Auckland: Auckland Coal Action
Jill Whitmore reports:

Auckland Coal Action’s main activity for the month has been gearing up for an all-day strategy session, to be held on 7 July (regular members only).

The film evening which we put on last month raised even more than previously reported – $921 by the time sales of wine and juice were included, so we were able to send $1000 to the Denniston appeal.

Next monthly meeting: Saturday 14th July, at the Quaker House, 113 Mt Eden Rd. New members welcome. We will be starting the meeting at 10am in order to allow us to join the anti-Asset-Sales march later in the day.

About Auckland Coal Action
Auckland Coal Action was formed in July 2011 following the visit of Dr James Hansen. We recognise that coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and that its ongoing use will lead to catastrophic climate change. We aim to achieve a coal-free Aotearoa by 2030, initially by opposing the expansion of coal mining. We do this work to play our part in sustaining a benign climate for us, our children and grandchildren.

Join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aklcoal/

Subscribe to our monthly email update – contact: aucklandcoalaction@gmail.com

9. News and Resources

10. CANA Blog

CANA’s blog is at https://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com
As well as our latest news, you’ll find pages (shown across the top of the blog) with information and resources you can use.

See boxes below for Facebook and Twitter.

11. How to donate to CANA

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

Coal Action Network
Kiwibank
38 9011 0484435 00

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Press Release: Investors Told To Stay Away From Coal

Coal Action Network Aotearoa has told mining investors to keep their hands off New Zealand coal.

L&M Energy held its AGM in Wellington today. The company is involved in underground coal gasification and coal seam gas exploitation, while another of the companies in the L&M group, L&M Lignite, is trying to exploit the massive quantities of lignite in Eastern Southland. These companies have been actively looking to gain new investors for mining projects.

Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Tim Jones said that the time is past when mining companies like those in the L&M group can go about their business unnoticed. “We know the Government supports coal mining, and doesn’t give two hoots about the terrible consequences of mining coal for our climate and the local environment. And we know mining companies like L&M are hoping to strike it lucky, with no regard for the climate, the environment or anything but lining their own pockets.”

“Coal Action Network Aotearoa, and anti-coal groups all over the country, are here to tell L&M and other companies with coal projects that there are no free passes any more. If you plan to mine coal, expect trouble. And if you don’t intend to actually mine, but instead intend to deliberately start an underground coal fire and collect the resulting gases – which is what underground coal gasification means – then you might want to watch out for trouble too,” Tim Jones said.

“The same goes for foreign investors who might be thinking of putting some money into New Zealand coal companies and projects. If they come here, they can expect an unpleasant time of it. Opposition to the Government’s mining agenda is growing, and now isn’t the time for mining investors to put themselves in reach of opposition from a growing number of angry New Zealanders. We suggest they look at investing in renewable energy instead,” Mr Jones concluded.

Tim Jones
Spokesperson
Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Contact Tim Jones, phone 027 359 0293, email tjonescan@gmail.com

Martha’s Mine

This fine poem is by Auckland Coal Action member Nick Pak.

Martha’s Mine

My aunt Martha has lived here twenty
years now. They brought her here with
empty promises; now life goes on bitter
and ugly, a web of shattered dreams and sadness

They’ve never taken away her rubbish –
now twenty years of sludge sit in her
backyard. Not profitable yet, she tells me
as she watches the sludge shipping index to China

It’s time to move on, she says. She
used to have a good home, a sturdy
four bedroom white painted weatherboard place,
’till Papa got too hungry and gobbled it up

She’s on the benefit and her six
kids have never had jobs. The employment
situation here is the pits and her husband
died long ago of respiratory failure

With a glint of hope in her eye she tells
me the kids are headed north, there are
promises of work there, the nation is
creating jobs for hard working Neu Zulunders.

Next year I visit them in Northland. The
birds have stopped singing and the rivers
run with poison. I see them sitting in their rigs
with eyes of shattered dreams and sadness

For a visual artist’s close-up view of coal mining, check out Meliors Simms’ account of her recent visit to Stockton Mine: http://meliors.blogspot.co.nz/2012/06/open-cut-warning-lots-of-photos-of.html

Our Article in the Christchurch Press: Coal Mining Catastrophe

This week, CANA had a Perspective Piece in the Christchurch Press in response to a pro-coal-mining piece from Chris Baker of Straterra, the mining industry lobby group. We submitted the article as “Straterra Can’t Spin Climate Change Away”, but the Press gave it a better title: Coal Mining Catastrophe. The article is below, and also on Stuff: http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/7134638/Coal-mining-catastrophe

Coal Mining Catastrophe

Chris Baker, the Chief Executive of Straterra, recently claimed [in the Press] that it was “unrealistic and irresponsible to advocate for a halt to coal mining in New Zealand”.

Straterra’s spin is well-funded by its mining industry masters. But it is those who claim that New Zealand and the world can safely continue to mine and burn coal who are being unrealistic.

Those who want to profit from coal mining adjust their tactics to the circumstances. In the USA, the mining companies, drillers and frackers continue to pour money into the climate change denial movement. In New Zealand, at least in public, the mining industry claims to be concerned about climate change. It just works hard to stop us taking any meaningful action on it.

The world’s climate is already changing: more floods, more droughts, more tornadoes. Sea level rise has begun, and even if we stopped burning fossil fuels tomorrow, we are already committed to more.

Climate change is driven by the burning of fossil fuels, and coal is 79% of the remaining climate changing potential. There is enough of it to raise the temperature of the planet by a further 15 degrees. If the world continues to mine and burn coal, flash floods and droughts will be the least of our worries. Instead, we will see the collapse of ice sheets, major sea level rise, massive forced migrations, and major famines. New Zealand will not be immune.

What does Straterra advocate to solve the problem? Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), to capture carbon dioxide emissions and store them underground. But successful examples of CCS are so far confined to a few demonstration projects, and even they capture only a fraction of the emissions.That’s because CCS is very expensive, and remains unproven. Indeed, the total amount of C02 successfully sequestered through CCS so far in the whole world is equivalent to one year’s emissions from our tiny Huntly power station.

Information revealed in Australia over the weekend shows Kevin Rudd’s $2.5 billion fund for CCS has been a waste of money and effort.(1)

CCS’s value to the coal mining industry is not as a practical solution, but as a shield against political pressure. The coal industry advocating CCS is like the cigarette industry advocating filter tips.

The coal mining industry likes to talk big about the economic benefits of mining, but here’s a simple practical test: go to a coal mining town, maybe Kaitangata in South Otago or Ohai or Nightcaps in Southland. Take a walk. Smell the coal-laden air. Look at the rundown houses, the pot-holed roads, the few shops. Do these look like rich towns to you?

New Zealand census statistics show that coal mining communities have higher unemployment and lower median incomes than the average for the district where they are located.(2) There is money in coal mining all right, but it doesn’t go to local communities. It goes to overseas investors and rich New Zealanders. And the good jobs are filled by mining experts from overseas.

There is only one way to preserve a climate that is safe for our children and grandchildren – and for ourselves. We need to stop new and expanded coal mining, and then phase out existing coal mining over time. We should be transitioning our energy system to non-fossil energy sources as the coal in existing mines is depleted and miners retire.

Realism isn’t hoping that you can wave a problem away because there is a cushy income in pretending it doesn’t exist. Realism is seeing what’s wrong, and doing what’s necessary. We need to keep the coal in the hole, because if we don’t, no amount of PR bluster or wishful thinking will be enough to save us.

– Tim Jones

(1) As reported at http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/political-news/carbon-millions-squandered-20120616-20h4x.html

(2) See https://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/the-economic-wellbeing-of-coal-mining-communities/

Getting the Numbers: How You Can Help The Asset Sales Referendum Campaign

As you may have heard, signatures are currently being collected for a petition calling for a Citizens’ Initiated Referendum (CIR) against the Government’s proposed asset sales. If the petition gets enough valid signatures, the Government cannot prevent the referendum from being held.

From a Coal Action Network Aotearoa perspective, we are most concerned about the planned privatisation of Solid Energy, which may allow them to raise investment capital for their planned massive lignite projects in Southland. Solid Energy is towards the back of the queue for privatisation. That means that, even if some asset sales have occurred by the time the referendum takes place, we should do everything we can to mobilise political opposition to the remaining sales.

The wording of the referendum question will be:

Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?

For the referendum to go ahead, the promoters of the referendum need to obtain over 300,000 valid signatures on the petition – that is, the signatures of people who are on the electoral roll, with their name and address details listed as they are on the electoral roll.

That makes collecting signatures a job that has to be done carefully and well. And that’s why we’d like Coal Action Network Aotearoa supporters to help with the signature-gathering process.

You can do so by going to the Keep Our Assets website at http://keepourassets.org.nz/. This is where you can download the petition form, and find out how to get more involved in the campaign at

http://keepourassets.org.nz/help-build-the-campaign/

If you have already signed the AVAAZ petition against the bill that is currently going through Parliament, you should still sign the Citizens’ Initiated Referendum petition as well. Passing the bill does not sell the assets – it just makes it legally possible. It will still take months after that before they can float companies on the sharemarket.

Solid Energy does enough damage as it is. Let’s make it as difficult as possible for the Government to make matters even worse. Recent events show that this Government will buckle when sufficient political pressure is exerted on them.

The Mt William North Hearings: Ignorance, Intimidation, and Elephants

Sharon McGarry thinks carbon dioxide makes holes in the ozone layer.

No, not a year nine science student but a commissioner; one of three in Westport recently entrusted with the task of unravelling the scientific and economic data pertinent to the next mountaintop removal on the Stockton Plateau –Mt William North.

The realisation that Ms McGarry did not have even a basic grasp of the science behind climate change was a shock, but the whole experience of submitting at this council hearing was a series of curious events.

I was at the Westport Bridge Club to speak to my submission opposing Solid Energy’s proposal to mine 5.4 million tonnes of new coal at Mt William. If mined, this coal will send approximately 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, widen even more the gap between reality and our international emissions obligations, further shred our clean green image, and destroy more endangered flora and fauna on the plateau.

Less than two weeks before the hearing submitters received a letter telling us that, due to the recent Environment Court declaration, the commissioners were “not able to have regard to any evidence or submissions concerning the effects on climate change of discharges into air arising from the subsequent burning of coal.”

Yes, that’s right, our supreme environmental statute, the RMA, is legally unable to consider the greatest environmental threat facing humanity; climate change. Even though this ruling is under appeal the commissioners chose not to delay the Mt William hearing.

Some of us still spoke about climate change, understanding it would be ignored. We also talked about ocean acidification, another effect of CO2 emissions not ruled out in the commissioner’s letter. With a wave of her arm Ms McGarry dismissed such talk: “We all know CO2 makes holes in the ozone”. After a short silence of disbelief it became clear that ocean acidification was also going to be banned, along with climate change. Curious how the rules appeared to change as the day progressed.

Curious too, was the presence of 20 or so Solid Energy workers in the back of the room dressed in orange safety gear and boots. They looked a little out of place accepting tea and bikkies from the lovely Bridge Club lady.

Then again, those of us opposing the proposal had brought our own curious sight – an elephant, sitting in the front row taking notes, dreads tied neatly back. At lunchtime he stood outside the entrance with a placard “Say NO to New Coal Extraction” while an orange-coated ‘worker’ shovelled coal under a carpet and a large banner explained to passers by and to the orange-garbed Solid Energy workers: “Climate Change is the Elephant in the Room”.

Standing nearby taking photographs was yet another curious sight – a dark suited character straight out of an American crime show. It turned out he worked for ProVision, also called Thompson and Clark Investigations Ltd, the agency caught out in 2007 for planting spies in the ranks of the Happy Valley protesters – paid for by Solid Energy: see http://www.nickyhager.info/i-was-paid-to-betray-protesters/

Opposers to Solid Energy’s application had been allocated the whole day to speak. We represented individuals and groups, locals and ‘outsiders’, whitebaiters, grandmothers, doctors and environmentalists.

I did not get my turn until the following morning. By then the workers in their safety gear had gone, replaced by Solid Energy’s demurely attired ecologist. No shady character outside. It seemed the commissioners needed only hear one more ‘pesky’ environmentalist, then get back to business. I had come 700 km to speak on behalf of myself and two other submitters, but the commissioners wanted to dismiss my second and third submissions without even hearing them. After I finished, as I left the room I could see it being cosily re-arranged so the Commissioners and their “friends” could finish the hearing in a more informal setting.

Then it was the local councils’ turn. I don’t hold out much hope for the councils; they don’t seem to take climate change that seriously. New developments are permitted at sea level all along the Coast. The Regional Council’s own fancy new building at Greymouth appears to rely on a few sand dunes to combat sea level rise.

The next day I visited Mordor (Stockton) itself, stood on black sludge 30 metres below where Mt Augustus should have been – mountaintop removal, Kiwi style. I looked over to Happy Valley, now renamed the Cypress Extension in an attempt to erase its colourful history of protest. The contrast between that untouched valley, the mountain beyond, and the hell below my feet was distressing. The land reclamation is a joke. Up there, anything at an angle greater than 16 degrees gets washed away. You can’t put a mountain back.

Beyond Happy Valley sat Mt William. Mt William, the next mountain top removal project. Or not? Will Sharon McGarry save the day?

– Rosemary Penwarden.

Check out images of the protest at the hearing – including the elephant!