Monthly Archives: August 2012

Solid Energy puts the climate last, again

Don Elder pulls down $1.4 million per year as CEO of Solid Energy – about 51 times the median Kiwi income – well paid for his role in the destruction of our planetary civilisation.

And if this week’s announcements are anything to go by, this is precisely what he is doing.

It must be galling for him to have to explain why his company is under-performing so badly. Caught between a high New Zealand dollar and a world price of high-grade coking coal that has fallen 40% in the past year, Solid Energy’s financial result will be well under expectations.

Bill English responded by saying that Solid Energy was in “no shape” for sale

Elder has now announced  how Solid  will deal with the situation and the news isn’t great – not for the climate, nor for the workers. Continue reading

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WWF-NZ: New economic report set to ignite debate around lignite alternatives

The WWF-New Zealand commissioned report A View to the South: Potential Low Carbon Growth Opportunities for the Southern Region Economy (PDF, 1.07 MB) is being launched tonight in Invercargill at a reception for business leaders, small business owners, councillors, politicians, residents and local environmental groups.

Report author and chief economist Dr Ganesh Nana, speaking at the report’s launch, says:

“The Southern region has a wide range of economic development options available. The four different scenarios BERL modelled – forestry, horticulture, manufacturing and engineering, and education and training – build on the region’s known competitive advantages and land-based economy, and have the potential to be low carbon.

“What we found was that with greater investment, all four sectors present opportunities for greater employment and GDP beyond the business as usual outcome.

“Greater investment in forestry and wood processing, for example, could create 1,180 full-time jobs within the next 15 years, over and above business as usual growth. It could add $190 million of GDP to the Southern region economy.”

You can read the full release at the WWF-NZ website, and download the BERL report there too.

The Ka Nui! Declaration

This is what we did at the weekend, when we attended the Ka Nui! conference, along with activists and communities impacted by the extraction industry from around the country.  It doesn’t need an introduction, we think it speaks for itself.

The Ka Nui Conference Declaration 

We, tangata whenua and community activists from around Aotearoa, gathered at Mataikotare Marae on 26 August 2012 to network against extractive industries, declare, ka nui! Enough!

All people rely on the Earth for our survival and bear a responsibility towards Papatuanuku, all living things and future generations.  We do not believe ours should be the generation that strips all the resources from the Earth and leaves nothing for our mokopuna.

We commit to limiting our own consumption to ensure the survival and wellbeing of all life.

We will build our own future that will uphold the Declaration of Independence and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We will create real jobs that grow healthy communities.

Therefore we say to the mining and drilling industries and the government: ka nui! Enough!

Enough of companies exploiting the land, poisoning the air, water and sea, and compromising our climate.

Enough of governments, councils and the courts putting the profits of a few before the wellbeing of this world.

We will oppose your exploitation.

We will defend our communities and the earth.

We challenge everyone to join us to begin building a sustainable future.

And so again we say, ka nui! Enough!

Mt William North: Sharon McGarry Did Not Save The Day

Rosemary Penwarden writes:

Sharon McGarry did not save the day. Mt William stands in line as the next mountaintop removal on the Stockton plateau. It’s the sequel to a very sad story of ignorance, intimidation and elephants; my experience opposing Solid Energy’s proposal for a new open cast coal mine on 243 hectares of Mt William on the Stockton plateau, just beyond the famous Happy Valley. It’s also a lesson to me as a first time submitter at a council RMA hearing; our legal system is wearing a blindfold.

The three independent commissioners, like three blind mice, including Sharon, who presumably still thinks carbon dioxide makes holes in the ozone layer (see The Mt William North Hearings: Ignorance, Intimidation and Elephants), have given Solid Energy the green light to take the top off Mt William (“top down” mining, they call it).

And, even though the local tangata whenua consider Mt William to be of cultural significance, mountains being their gateway to the atua (gods), Dr Ruth Bartlett, Solid Energy’s Manager of Consents and Planning, has an excellent working relationship with them so it’s ok to take their mountain away. Afterwards Solid Energy will erect a serpentine rock pou, with carved inscription, to commemorate what they’ve lost. No worries. (1)

Oh, and landscape architect Frank Boffa says that, from a distance, you will sort of see what it used to be like – a hump here, a hollow there – you know, like the ridgeline that was built up over millennia? (2) Albeit at a lower altitude you understand. Jolly good of them, don’t you think? Ruth said we don’t want anything too jagged left at Mt William anyway because the surrounding area will be low – that’s because anything greater than a sixteen degree angle up on the plateau, post mining, will be washed away by the six metre per annum rainfall – and it’s better to be in keeping with the (new) existing surroundings. (3) Anyway, they need the coal from underneath the jagged bit too.

Of course, those unique sandstone pavements, 34.4 hectares’ worth, will have to go. But oh well, there are offsets, mitigations and compensations and it all comes out in the wash to a Target Final Landform Plan, and what with some predator control for a few years in a completely different area, hey presto! A nice net biodiversity gain all round! I don’t know; the things you can do with ‘science’ these days.

Anyway, not many people go there, which in Frank’s eyes could be an argument to diminish the area’s importance. (4)

Then there’s the compelling economic argument for blasting the top off Mt William: 17 jobs and two further years of mining.

Used to be impossible to move mountains.

We mustn’t forget the wider economic benefits to the region; the two-speed economy for instance, part of the ‘boom’ portion in a mining town’s inevitable boom-and-bust cycle. House prices are rocketing in Westport. Great for some, very bad for those who don’t earn miners’ salaries to cover rent or mortgage payments.

Now, how did those commissioners make their difficult decision? On the one hand: irreversible destruction of 243 hectares of a near pristine environment, habitat for up to 59 great spotted kiwi (Apteryx haastii – threatened), land snails (Powelliphanta patrickensis – threatened) – which are site specific, so that each small region has its own snail subspecies – West Coast green geckos (Naultinus tuberculatus – declining), South Island kaka (nationally endangered), Western weka (at risk – declining), South Island fernbird (at risk – declining), NZ pipit (at risk – declining), South Island rifleman (at risk – declining), the low-growing woody subshrub Dracophyllum densum (declining), the endemic coal-measures tussock Chionochloa juncea (declining), and Parkinson’s rātā (Metrosideros parkinsonii) – mustn’t forget the eventual discharge of around 13 million tonnes of climate warming carbon dioxide into the world’s atmosphere. On the other hand: two more years of mining and 17 jobs for some lucky 12-hours-a-day, 7-day-on, 7-off drivers. Tough choice!

Mining Mt William may not be the final blow to the declining and endangered species that live there, and those 13 million tonnes of CO2 may or may not initiate runaway climate change, but in the words of expert chemist Bob Cunningham, who kindly provided me with information about ocean acidification which the commissioners refused to let me read out at the hearing: “…it is from small beginnings that momentous occasions result.” The way mice nibble away at your cheese.

It must be easier to make such choices whilst blindfolded. During the hearing, Climate Change, our gorgeous dreadlocked elephant, sat politely in the front row of the Westport Bridge Club while submitters spoke on his behalf. Sharon would not have recognised him anyway, but the other two commissioners, even had they noticed his pink floppy ears and sad round eyes, were not allowed to acknowledge him, not even to cast a cursory glance his way.

Three Elephants

That’s because he has been banished by the Environment Court. Climate Change, the most important environmental issue facing the world today, banished by our own Environment Court and called irrelevant by the coal miners’ legal representative, Chapman Tripp.

The lawyers told local governments not to worry their heads over Climate Change. Leave it to them, they say, to that legal piece of national weasel wizardry, loved by all big fossil fuel emitters: the Emissions Trading Scheme. The ETS works wonders for Solid Energy – we, the taxpayers, subsidise 90% of their NZ emissions and anything exported doesn’t count. They get to pollute our atmosphere for next to nothing!

There it is; a sad story of three blind mice, one elephant, and a mountain.

Notes

(1) See http://www.wcrc.govt.nz/mtwilliam/hearing.html: Ruth Bartlett – Consultation
(2) See http://www.wcrc.govt.nz/mtwilliam/application.html – 13: Landscape
(3) See http://www.wcrc.govt.nz/mtwilliam/hearing.html: Ruth Bartlett – Consultation
(4) See http://www.wcrc.govt.nz/mtwilliam/hearing.html: Frank Boffa – Landscape

The Climate Elephant Is Here

The Climate ElephantI am the elephant in the room.

Today the legal system in NZ has confirmed once again that it cannot see me. West Coast regional council commissioners have given the go-ahead to a new coal mine at Mt William. I sat in the room while they heard all the evidence. I was by far the largest creature in the room, as I always am when they talk about coal mining, but it seems they just couldn’t see me.

My name is climate change. My existence has been known for many years and I am recognised in government legislation, and big international conferences have been held about me for 20 years, but in NZ when it comes to coal mining, the biggest cause of climate change, I am not allowed to speak. My friends spoke eloquently on my behalf but their evidence was dismissed.

I will be there whenever decisions are made about me, challenging the blind. But be warned: elephants never forget, and are known to rampage.

Follow the appearances of the Climate Elephant on Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheClimateElephant

Drew Hutton Lock The Gates Tour, August 2012

Drew Hutton of Australia’s Lock the Gate Alliance is coming to Aotearoa to share his knowledge of coal mining, fracking and Coal Seam Gas exploration and their effects on rural communities, land and water.

Drew is a long-term environmental campaigner who has worked closely with farmers, landholders and indigenous communities in Australia. He is the President of the Lock the Gate Alliance.

Now you can learn from Drew’s experience and find out how we can Lock the Gate on fracking, coal mining and Coal Seam Gas projects.

Lock the Gates Tour

Tour schedule

Wellington: 22nd August, St Johns in the City, 170 Willis St, 6.30 pm.

Dannevirke: 23rd August, The Hub, Allardice St, 2pm.

Hastings: 23rd August, Heretaunga Taiwhenua, 821 Orchard Road, 7-9pm.

Gisborne: 24th August, Gisborne District Council Chambers, 2pm.

Te Karaka, 24th August, Rangatira Scout Hall, 7pm.

Rotorua: 25th August, Keynote speaker at Ka Nui Conference, Rotorua Convention Centre 3pm. http://kanuiconference.wordpress.com/

Hamilton: 27th August, Waikato University room S.G.03, 7pm.

Taranaki: 28th August, Norfolk Hall, S.H3 Norfolk (near Inglewood), 7pm.

Gore, 29th August, James Cumming Wing, Ardwick St, 7.30pm.