Category Archives: Just Transitions

ECO Conference shows unions and environmental groups are natural allies

Coal Action Network Aotearoa was well represented at the recent ECO (Environment and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa New Zealand) Conference in Auckland – which saw environmentalists and the union movement further cementing a relationship which has grown increasingly close in recent years.

Just Transition panel at ECO Conference

Climate Justice Aotearoa has produced an excellent report of the conference on their website, which we have lightly adapted here:

This year’s ECO conference saw what Jeanette Fitzsimons of CANA described as a coming together of “natural allies”  with environmentalists and unions exploring the opportunities and challenges associated with realising a just transition for workers and communities here in Aotearoa. Continue reading

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.21.12 pm

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

Jobs After Coal Roadshow Report

jac_coverRosemary Penwarden writes: Coal Action Network Aotearoa’s Jobs After Coal report (PDF, 3Mb) has been a couple of years in the making. Writing it was like one of those relays where you hand the baton to the next person, they go like hell and then pass it on. With Cindy’s eye for media deadlines and Jeanette’s capacity to work harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, we kept on track and have even managed to stay friends. We could not have done it without the constructive feedback from Geoff Bertram, Dave Kennedy, Conor Twyford, Edward Miller, Sam Huggard and Geoff Keey. About 100 people attended the Wellington launch on 22 May. Co-author Tim Jones was able to take a moment out from the depths of his Save the Basin Campaign Board of Inquiry hearing to join us. Most encouraging for me was to see union organisers in the audience, and ongoing discussions since with the unions around one of the report’s main issues – a just transition to a low carbon economy. Jeanette has made Jobs After Coal her winter project roadshow, describing it as a bit like being on the campaign trail (which she does not miss). She presented in Christchurch on 30 June and gave four talks in the Top of The South 25-28 July, well received, with good sized audiences at each venue. Passing the baton to Jeanette Fitzsimons here…

A great weekend with my old and dear friend Debs with whom I worked on the campaign to stop Project Aqua, the diversion of most of the low flow of the Waitaki river. We won that one, and we will win this one too! One of the precious things about this roadshow is reconnecting with friends I’ve worked with – like Mike and Joe and Robina from Mataura in the days of the lignite scare, who drove through to Invercargill.

Debs drove me over the hill to Blenheim (we talked Denniston all weekend) where I presented at the opening of the art exhibition “Oil on Canvas”, a fund raiser for the active campaign aginst deep sea oil drilling, organised by the amazing Verena Maeder.  A ready made audience and companion speakers Rod Morris, whose photos have built love and awe for the Denniston Plateau nation-wide, and entrepreneur Nick Gerritsen, about his latest project to make liqiod fuels from wood waste.

I foresee waste wood from forestry operations becoming the next scarce resource as people realise it  is our lifeline to an economy without fossil fuels. Boiler fuel, home heating,  transport fuel, even coke for steel making, and of course the ultimate finite resource is land, on which it all depends. Even with renewables we can’t keep growing forever.

Beautiful art works, all local, including one of Rod’s images of Denniston which I coveted, but wasn’t feeling rich. One that particularly took my eye was a disturbing painting called 2L8. I know in my head it probably is, but I refuse to believe it and the only way to live is to try to still make a difference.

You learn something every time you stand up to talk to a group. I’ve been singing the praises of NZ innovation LVL, a strengthened timber building material that can substitute for steel and concrete in multi-storeyed buildings – very low carbon, in fact stores carbon for the life of the building. I’ve been lamenting that Christchurch was not rebuilt in this sustainable material, partly because there is no fabricating plant here to cut the stuff to order. A voice from the back row in Takaka called out “not true. Nelson Pine opened one this week”. Turned out to be Piers McLaren, doyen forester with whom I have corresponded but never before met. Led to a useful discussion with the CEO of Nelson Pine the next day.

So Blenheim, Takaka, Motueka and Nelson – lots of great people all working in their own way on a fossil free future.

Then to Dunedin where I met up with Rosemary. We managed our “Two Ronnies” act OK at the university presentation. The Chamber of Commerce wanted a rather different slant – business opportunities in a low carbon economy. They booked quite a small room so it was a good experience for them to find it booked out a day ahead and they were squeezing people in on the night. More general public than business, but some of the latter too and I’ve heard it did make an impression on the Chamber. Back to Rosemary….

I teamed up with Jeanette again for the two Dunedin presentations on 29 and 30 July, to audiences of around 50 at each venue. The following afternoon, armed with cups of tea and sandwiches for non-stop travel, we headed to Invercargill where fellow CANA organising member Jenny Campbell had a precisely timed two days awaiting. A pot luck tea, catch-ups with fellow Southland anti-lignite campaigners and our JAC presentation followed – complete with our very own climate change sceptic in the front row. Neither Jeanette nor I needed to respond as the Invercargill audience deftly dealt with his comments.

Rosemary Penwarden...

Rosemary Penwarden, Nathan Surendran, Joe Nowak…

Rosemary Penwarden...

…Jeanette Fitzsimons and Mike Dumbar in conversation with old friends at the Invercargill event

The following morning we met with Steve Canny and others at Venture Southland for an exchange that lasted the entire morning, with an interlude to pose for the Southland Times and a TV interview with the very patient and charming Cue TV reporter. Thanks to Dave Kennedy for organising the Venture Southland meeting – their work is inspiring. I spied their speedy little electric car being delivered as we left. A couple of spare hours were filled with unexpected discussions with bank staff when Jeanette’s plastic card was swallowed up by the ATM machine, never to be returned. They were so nice. (Jeanette: So they should have been – Bank’s mistake, not mine! ) You just can’t get angry with Southlanders! We kept hearing about the next event on Jenny’s itinerary: the Environment Southland Awards. It’s big, we were told. Southlanders are not known to exaggerate, even so, we were both surprised at the scale of the evening at the Ascot Hotel – live TV, over 500 guests for a full meal and accompaniments, anyone who’s anyone there and, as is always the case down this end of Aotearoa, they all seemed to know each other. The best part of the evening was the very last prize being awarded to Jenny’s group, Southland Forest and Bird, for their remarkable 25 years of restoration and care of the yellow eyed penguin reserve, Te Rere. A very early morning at Invercargill airport completed this leg of the JAC roadshow. We look forward to being invited to other parts of the country to continue the discussion. For me, it’s about more than phasing out coal mining. It is a good place to start the necessary work we must all now participate in – to build and manage a fair and durable shift to a low carbon economy, where workers do not bear the brunt of that shift. From here, our little JAC relay looks like part of an enormous marathon. Change is emerging but we’re racing to a deadline. A just transition to a low carbon economy has to be fair and it has to be swift. We need everyone’s diverse, creative skills to keep that baton moving, run like hell, and pass it on. We have advantages many other countries could only dream about, and we look forward to taking charge of our own futures instead of being at the mercy of unjust market forces and a dying industry. It’s already happening.


I took a picture of the shiny silent mothballed briquette plant on my way home, for old times’ sake. Still think it would make a great whisky distillery

Coal communities deserve better than the “boom and bust” coal industry

We at Coal Action Network have a vision for Aotearoa:  that we are coal-free by 2027.  We’ve arrived at this date as it’s when all the current coal mines in operation around the country will reach their end date.

Our new report released today.

Our new report released today.

It doesn’t include new mines such as Bathurst’s plans for the beautiful Dennison Plateau, where operations have stalled and 29 workers were recently laid off as the coal price has plummeted in the face of a global oversupply.

But imagine if the Government was to draw a line in the sand and state that there would be no more coal mines in Aotearoa.  If they did that today,  this would give coal mining communities the time to adjust, to plan a transition away from coal that involved the entire community, and led to a sustainable future. Continue reading

Jobs After Coal Report Launch, Wellington, Thursday 22 May

Coal Action Network Aotearoa is launching a major new report – and you’re invited to the launch event.


Where: Wellington

When: Thursday 22 May, 12.30-1.30pm

VenueVictoria University of Wellington, Pipitea Campus, Rutherford House, Ground Floor, Lecture Theatre Two (RHLT2)

Speaker: Jeanette Fitzsimons, Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Facebook event:

What’s it about:

Coal mining communities in New Zealand have recently faced major disruption, uncertainty and job losses as the industry suffers from falling prices, competition from renewable energy and mounting concern at the threat of climate change.

Globally and locally, we are on the brink of a transition from the old economy, based on fossil fuels, to a new future based on clean, renewable energy. Yet many hold on to the old for fear of job losses that will leave communities with a shattered economy and no options.

Jeanette will be launching “Jobs After Coal,” a report she has co-authored with other members of the Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA). The report argues that the role of coal in New Zealand’s economy is small; there are many options for jobs in the industries that will replace coal; skills of coal miners are transferable to other industries, and communities can reinvent themselves to regain a new prosperity after coal.

However, these positive outcomes depend on recognising the need for a proper and effective transition path and setting up a planned process within the community itself, including all stakeholders, with support from central and local government.


Revised_Jeanette Fitzsimons_CANA_22 May flyer

Mining plan ‘pure lunacy’, lobby group says

Coal Action Network Spokesperson Kristin Gillies on TVNZ’s Breakfast explaining why we think opening another coal mine is not the answer to the West Coast’s economic crisis. view here…….

All Solid Energy staff should be back at work tomorrow, and then lets begin a conversation about how we are going to provide long-term sustainable livelihoods for those communities.

Solid Energy Job Losses: Its a matter of Justice

This Opinion Editorial by Coal Action Network Spokesperson Kristin Gillies recently featured in the Greymouth Star and the Southland Times:

The transition to a sustainable future must provide alternative livelihoods for workers, for their families, and for their communities.

Many things get excused in the name of the economy.

The government claims to want a balance between economic growth and environmental concerns.

When the ‘greenies’ go on about how profit is being put before the environment ‘they’re just not being realistic’.

Jobs vs conservation, that’s how it’s framed. Solid Energy’s a big fan of this story.

They like to tell us how they sponsor the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, build skateboard parks, ‘create jobs,’ and provide the country with valuable foreign income.

Well, this state-owned enterprise also hires spies, destroys conservation lands, takes the tops off mountains, and produces one of the dirtiest fossil fuel sources in the world. And last week, they announced they’re on the brink of destroying the livelihoods of 370 workers at Huntly East and Spring Creek mines, and at their Christchurch HQ.

These announcements confirm what many have known for a long time: coal mining is not sustainable. Not for the environment, not for the climate, not for the economy, and not for the workers and communities who depend on Solid for their livelihoods. Hundreds of workers losing their jobs, hundreds more left in limbo or forced to reapply for positions.

Solid Energy bosses are prioritising getting the company into shape for sale , over loyalty to the workers on whose labour the entire industry depends. For the first time ever, I might actually have something in common with Greymouth mayor Tony Kokshoorn. Solid’s putting profit over people again. To echo Kokshoorn’s words, it’s been a gutting few years for Greymouth, and Solid’s financial mismanagement and resulting financial crisis has only made it worse.

The decision to shut down underground mining on the Coast in favour of opencast mining on Southland farmland might make economic sense to Don Elder, but closer examination reveals it is more of the same flawed thinking that got the state-owned miner into trouble in the first place.

Their showpiece pilot briquetting plant in Mataura has been delayed by unproven technology and health and safety concerns.

Turning lignite into urea will provide a whole lot more of something we don’t need a whole lot more of. Likewise, diesel produced from lignite would be more polluting than the already polluting diesel we use now.

Elder has been trying to drum up support for his crazy ‘think big’ style lignite schemes for years now. He’s been turned down by consecutive governments for funding, and he’s now been abandoned by Ravensdown who determined the lignite-to-urea plan was uneconomic. This is Elder’s great plan for future prosperity. And I haven’t even mentioned the emissions.

Some have used the last week as an opportunity to take a pot shot at Solid Energy’s foray into renewable energy production. They blame this as the cause of Solid’s economic woe. Wood chip and biofuels have been unceremoniously dumped from the portfolio because they are, of course, uneconomic.

It’s hard to compete when the government subsidises the fossil fuel industry so heavily with tax write-offs, low royalty rates, and a farcical Emissions Trading Scheme which hides the true costs of mining. National dropped the obligation for biofuels in our gas stations in its first few days in power which could have made the industry viable. Solid Energy’s foray into renewable energy was the best thing it had done towards securing sustainable jobs for the future. But that’s been dropped, because of economic mismanagement by the Government and by Solid Energy bosses.

As the planet melts (and indeed, scientists are shocked at this year’s record Arctic summer ice melt), jobs in the fossil fuel industries will disappear, and more communities that rely upon them will be left to fend for themselves.

If the current, short-sighted expansion of mining into Southland and other areas across the country goes ahead like the Government hopes, then it won’t just be Huntly and Greymouth, it will be all those communities which will be left to clean up the mess when the mining companies leave. Mining is all about the quick dollar – no matter the costs on communities or the planet.

Solid’s executives blame the vagaries of the market and the dollar for their poor economic performance, two things which we can be sure will only be heightened in the future as the world tries to deal with the twin crises of the economy and the climate.

The world has got more coal than we can afford to burn, and it is all held on the books of mining companies, artificially inflating their value. But if it can’t be mined, then who is going to pay? While Don Elder continues to earn well in excess of a million dollars a year, he expects hundreds of workers to pay the price for the governments, the industries, and his short-sighted vision. It’s time for some accountability.

The costs of the transition away from fossil fuels must be borne by the companies who have profited from them in the past. Not by workers and their communities. Coal Action Network Aotearoa campaigns for a just transition away from coal mining by 2030. We call for no new mines, and for the phasing out of existing mining – not for its sudden demise. The transition to a sustainable future must provide alternative livelihoods for workers, for their families, and for their communities.

These are complex issues, and there is a lot of work to be done. A lot of debates to be held on the Coast and across the country. You won’t hear us calling for the closure of existing mines tomorrow for exactly this reason. 370 people can’t afford to lose their livelihoods. Their families can’t afford to lose the income and all the flow-on services, schools, town centres. Whole communities, like Runanga, can’t survive the loss of the single-industry, and whole regions like the Coast don’t have the alternatives in place yet to transition away from coal. Southland’s future deserves better than to be built built on a boom that leaves it vulnerable to the inevitable bust.

These people – at Huntly, at Spring Creek, and in Christchurch – should not have had their jobs cut. Tomorrow, all 370 should be back at work. And then let’s begin the real conversation about how our communities will survive and flourish – as we undertake a just transition away from fossil fuels.

Kristin Gillies
Coal Action Network Aotearoa

Pike River Disaster

There is blood on every ounce of coal
Coal Action Network sends our solidarity and sympathy to the families and communities on the Coast who have lost loved ones in the Pike River mining disaster.  This was not a ‘natural disaster’ and like many tragedies in mines that have come before, and the ongoing deaths of individual workers in mines every year, workers have again died because of the companies’ drive for profit.
As the human cost of coal through its extraction and through climate change continues to grow, perhaps its time to ask the question. How much blood for coal?
For alternative viewpoints on the Pike River Tragedy try these two articles:

Eventually someone will be held culpable, By Matt McCarten

Someone has to say it. The collective media swooning for Pike River boss Peter Whittall is just wrong.

Of course Whittall is devastated about the miners’ deaths. But he is also the guy in charge of protecting his workers and his company may have failed in that duty.

Instead we have sainthood surreally foisted on Whittall by the media and politicians alike, anointing him as the public face of national mourning for his dead employees and subcontractors.

Yet under his watch, 29 men were killed and still lie entombed. Family members and friends of the dead have been robbed of a loved one. Many other workers, as a result of the explosion, will lose their livelihoods.

Read On…..

Pike River – the hard coaled facts: By Nandor Tanczos

Let’s be blunt – it is time to end the coal industry. It is important that we properly acknowledge the deaths of the 29 men at Pike River, but in the end there is a bigger question to be decided than mine safety.

Read On……

A just transition from coal to renewable energy in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, Australia


The Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia is one of the world’s climate change hot-spots. It is where 40% of Australia’s electricity is generated from five coal-fired power plants, and is the source of 100 million tonnes of black coal exported annually to the global markets. A growing number of local residents of the Hunter Valley are questioning the sustainability of the region’s coal dependent economy because of its harmful local ecological and social impacts and its contribution to global warming. Environmental organisations and some labour unions have identified the need for a ‘just transition’ to clean, renewable energy-based economies at local, national and global scales to respond to these threats. A just transition is a process of economic restructuring from unsustainable economies towards ecological and social sustainability while creating new Green Jobs and supporting people and communities who might be disadvantaged during the change process. This article considers the potential for a just transition in the Hunter Valley with respect to coal mining, the export coal industry and domestic power generation. Attention is given to potential for common ground among key labour unions, environmentalists and local residents, and to the critical role of government intervention for a successful just transition process.

Read On…..