Reflections on my experience at the Fonterra Studholme resource consent hearing

by Jenny Campbell

Fonterra clinging

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

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

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

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

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

Rosemary’s emphasis from a personal perspective, expressing her passions, responsibility for future generations and Fonterra’s lack of appreciation of the consequences of their proposal to keep using coal in spite of the impacts on climate change, was challenging for all listeners. Wise Response’s group of expert witnesses was sincerely appreciated, setting the scene for locals to present their evidence with very telling personal experiences.

CANA member Tim Jones raised concerns around the RMA provisions not being met by Fonterra in their plans. He presented by teleconference, making his mark with quick thinking responses to the commissioners’ questions. The picture developed as Jeanette Fitzsimons presented CANA’s arguments, supported by the technical expertise of Peter and Christian. The Commissioners were alert, asked searching questions and sounded keen to know more about the many points CANA made. It took the whole afternoon, so Zella and I offered to present on Thursday morning as otherwise it would have meant a very late session. There was a quiet feeling of elation at the reception of CANA’s arguments and the respect shown to the three presenters.

As the last speaker for the whole hearing I got very emotional, which surprised me. Moral and ethical considerations along with remembering our responsibility for not only people but for every other living organism, was the thrust of my submission. I was quite cheeky and said that on Thursday it had sounded like the decision had already been made regarding granting consents. I was told twice, very forcefully, by the Commission Chair, that no such decision had been made and I could be confident in that – that put me in my place, but I thanked him for informing me of this.

In spite of my initial personal misgivings the team effort paid dividends as each person brought their strengths to the fore to make a mark on Fonterra’s thick skin. The outcomes have been surprising to date with Commissioners asking unexpected questions of Fonterra. Nothing was wasted in our efforts to challenge and unsettle them, which we accomplished with aplomb!

Thank you CANA team – both those who presented as well as those who contributed in many ways in the lead up, with ideas and reflection spaces- you are amazing!

What did I learn? Doing an oral submission is ‘easy peasy’ when you have the support of so many others.

Kia kaha
Jenny Campbell

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