Category Archives: Jeanette Fitzsimons

Would that Fonterra Would Use Wood!

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christchurch is rebuilding two hospitals – the central one and one at Burwood. One is installing state-of-the-art waste wood boilers, the other plans, bizarrely, to move two existing coal boilers on to the site, costing millions of dollars just to shift in some dirty energy.

Climate and health conscious people around the country and particularly in Canterbury have been vocal about the insanity of this and now there is a glimmer of hope. The tender documents were withdrawn last year and have been reissued. The wording is such that it could be possible to avoid coal.

Jeanette Fitzsimons gives the background and explores the arguments in The Press last week: http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/77738911/why-a-hospital-should-not-be-burning-coal

Auckland Coal Action Exposes Fonterra’s Dirty Secret: Coal

fonterra-fuel-for-the-future1 Fonterra has a dirty secret it prefers to keep from the world: many of its dairy plants are powered by the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel, coal. Fonterra has made noises about switching to renewable forms of fuel, such as wood waste, for its heat plant, but so far, that’s all there’s been – noises. So Auckland Coal Action decide to call Fonterra out. At the annual Fieldays at Mystery Creek near Hamilton, Auckland Coal Action members and friends handed out the leaflet above, together with little bags of wood chips. Here they are in action:

Auckland Coal Action handing out leaflets and bags of wood chips

Auckland Coal Action handing out leaflets and bags of wood chips

Fonterra was badly embarrassed, and event organisers got the protest moved on – but not before it had made a big media impact. Below you can read posts about the action on Auckland Coal Action’s excellent blog, plus a selection of media coverage. Fonterra’s days of hiding its dirty secret are over. Auckland Coal Action coverage

Selected media coverage

The 2015 Revised Edition of Jobs After Coal: More Timely Than Ever

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The 2015 revised edition of CANA’s report Jobs After Coal: A Just Transition for New Zealand Communities was released on the 2nd of May, in conjunction with a speech CANA organising group member Jeanette Fitzsimons gave at the May Day celebrations in Blackball.

You can download and read:

Since May 2014, when we released the original edition of this report, world coal prices have continued to drop, and in New Zealand, coal mining companies have continued to lay off workers without the slightest concern or provision for the communities they live in. This was underlined just five days after the 2015 version was released, when Solid Energy announced it was getting rid of 151 more positions at its Stockton mine.

While the mining companies and the Government offer nothing, CANA’s report addresses how communities and workers can prepare for the end of coal mining, and lays out pathways that communities and regions can follow to move away from coal and into low-carbon jobs. Continue reading

Fair Shares – or Excuses, Excuses?

Jeanette Fitzsimons wrote this post as she worked on her submission to the Government’s just-completed climate change target consultation process.

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Like hundreds of New Zealanders I went to one of the Government’s consultation meetings (Hamilton, where there were 70 people) on what our climate change target should be in Paris this year. Now I’m wresting with their Discussion Document as I write my submission to the process.

The document suggests we should do “our fair share” – hardly a goal anyone could disagree with – until you read the caveat “in light of our unique national circumstances”. There follows a pathetic list of excuses for why we should do much less than others – a list of special pleadings crying poor me and arguing we are disadvantaged. I am embarrassed that these arguments are being made in our name in international meetings so let’s look at whether they have any merit.

It is hard for us to reduce emissions because we have a lot of agriculture where there aren’t easy options and we supply food to the rest of the world which is important

We have chosen to make our living with dairy farming, and must take responsibility for the consequences. It’s not as though the rest of the world would starve without our dairy products. Most of it now is infant formula, replacing superior breast milk in China so that mothers can go straight back to work. Dairy products are luxury foods. Lower intensity farming with better management of wet soils and use of breeds that emit less methane could at least reduce those emissions.

While we are held accountable for our food exports, we have outsourced most of our manufacturing to China and other places, and considerable industrial emissions with it. We consume those products but are not accountable for their emissions.

Government also persists in supporting conversion of forests to dairy farms by its own LandCorp, showing they are not serious about stopping agricultural emissions growing. Continue reading

May Day at Blackball: we call for a new extractive industry on the coast

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes… 

Jeanette Fitzsimons speaking in Blackball on Saturday.

Jeanette Fitzsimons speaking in Blackball on Saturday.

There was a theme for this year’s May Day seminar at Blackball, up the river valley from Greymouth, and crucible for the formation of the mining unions:

“A Sustainable West Coast Economy: dream or possibility?”

CANA was invited to speak about “The problem with the extractive industries”. You can read my speech here – I launched our 2015 Jobs After Coal report, with updated figures on last year.

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Fonterra Sneaks Round The Corner – Part 2

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes… Our recent post about Fonterra’s new coal mine seems to have provoked a flurry of denials from Fonterra and Solid Energy. Why so sensitive? fonterra_still_burns_coal Fonterra says their Mangatangi mine is not “on hold” but “deferred”. This is what they told residents at a meeting of the North Waikato community group some weeks ago. As there was no time frame for the deferral we interpreted this as “on hold”. Can anyone illuminate us as to the difference?

They say the mine is deferred because of delays in meeting environmental requirements, though they told the community earlier it was because of low coal prices.

We calculate the mine is now around 17 months behind schedule. It was to have produced coal this year, but not a sod has been turned. Meanwhile, Solid Energy says it is still considering (“doing work on”) whether to reopen the Kopako 1 mine in the Maramarua coalfield about 5km from the Mangatangi site. This seems to be a re-consideration.

They obtained resource consent for this in 2006 from Environment Waikato. Their website recently announced it and carried job recruitment advertisements, but these have since been removed. An announcement was also seen in the local Franklin paper, and their annual report refers to “resuming production from our Maramarua opencast mining area”.

A local resident received a notice in his letterbox in November saying the mine was going to be reopened; machinery has been moved on site and some surface earthworks done but no coal seems to have been removed yet.

We assume this was a firm proposal until the latest round of Solid Energy’s financial disasters, which may have caused a rethink. Solid Energy said in its 2014 annual report that it has renewed contracts with the two largest coal users in NZ, Genesis (which runs the Huntly power station) and NZ Steel.

In addition, it had signed a new contract for over 100,000 tpy with an un-named customer. Only Fonterra uses coal on this scale. The only alternative we can imagine is a very large new industry that nobody seems to have heard of.

While the NBR report on the latest statements from Fonterra and Solid Energy says we “claimed” Fonterra is the third largest coal user in the country, that is not open to dispute. The figures are all published year by year in MBIE’s Energy in New Zealand report (formerly Energy Data File).

Given the current world price of coal, no business in their right mind would start a new mine for export, so there must be a local customer.

Consider this:

Fonterra has only three coal-fired milk drying plants in the North Island, Waitoa, Te Awamutu and Hautapu, all in the Waikato.Together, they use roughly 120,000 tpy. They have been supplied from Fonterra’s subsidiary,

Glencoal‘s Kopako 3 mine which was scheduled to run out at the end of 2014. Fonterra now says it is due to run out in 2017. It is unclear from observation whether it is still producing some coal, but there is not much machinery there.

Mangatangi (over 100,000 tpy) was planned and scaled to replace Kopako 3 and supply those three plants. If Fonterra has a contract with Solid Energy for more than 100,000 tpy those plants cannot use Mangatangi coal as well.

Solid Energy says in its attempted rebuttal that it sells coal from Rotowaro to Fonterra for its milk drying plants. That will be how they are meeting the new contract while they decide about Kopako 1.

Rotowaro produces a little under a million tonnes a year and is also in decline but is clearly capable of supplying Fonterra’s three North Island plants without reopening Kopako 1 if Solid Energy continues to contract its operations.

Whatever they decide, it is not possible for both mines to go ahead and supply Fonterra, which was the point of our original blog. Fonterra has not commented on contracts with Solid Energy but has clearly “sneaked around the corner”.

Why does all this matter? It matters because coal is the biggest contributor world wide to climate change, and most of what is left must stay in the ground if we are to prevent climate chaos. This is the real issue – everything else is obfuscation.

Unlike NZ Steel, which has very limited options, Fonterra has a ready alternative. Wood chips from forestry residues can run boilers for heat, and in many NZ industries they do already. Fonterra has claimed for over a year now that it is actively investigating renewable fuels for its heat plant, but has made no demonstrable progress and has stopped the trials it was doing at Studholme. fonterra_use_wood_waste

Why are these two companies prevaricating and trying to confuse? What we need is some transparency and some honest communication.

Footnote: there have been media claims that Coal Action Network Aotearoa is trying to stop coal mining. It is very clear on our website that we are not – we are trying to stop new mines opening so the rest can be phased out as they deplete and miners retire, without the abrupt and deep disruptions in coal mining communities that Solid Energy has caused with its drastic and sudden layoffs.