Category Archives: Mangatawhiri

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.

Fonterra Sneaks Round The Corner

Jeanette Fitzsimons writes…

Fonterra’s subsidiary Glencoal has put its plans for an open cast mine on SH2 at Mangatangi on hold indefinitely. The local community is celebrating. They worked very hard with submissions on all the impacts of coal mining that you are allowed to talk about in consent hearings – water, dust, traffic – but not climate change, the worst impact of all. We hear Fonterra was really surprised at the strength of the opposition.

Much of the credit though must go to Auckland Coal Action which has turned out seven times on the last afternoon of holiday weekends to face traffic crawling back to Auckland from Bay of Plenty and Coromandel, with huge placards saying

“Fonterra plans coal mine here”

“Coal Cooks the Climate”

coal cooks the climate

“Fonterra could use Waste Wood”

The mine was planned for such a public site, adjoining SH2 and the protests got some publicity, as did CANA’s opposition at the consents hearing. We brought expert evidence (PDF) to show wood chip from forestry residues was available and technically feasible as a boiler fuel with no net carbon emissions. This is what a win looks like. But….

Solid Energy has just reopened Kopako 1, an old mine around 5km away which still contains a lot of coal, on a back road hardly anyone ever a uses except for mining. It’s part of the same Maramarua coal field. They have a contract with Fonterra to supply more than 100,000 tonnes a year for their Waikato milk drying plants. Fonterra has just sneaked round the corner and passed responsibility for the mining to Solid Energy.


From the perspective of the atmosphere, nothing has changed. Emissions will continue as planned. But we have shown that Fonterra is susceptible to pressure. All those motorists tooting support for the ACA protests has got to them. They have had to sneak away to a less public site. But it’s not that easy.

Now is the time to keep up the pressure. Fonterra is the third largest coal user in the country by far. With the Huntly power station phasing out they may already be the second largest, after the steel mill. At least 400,000 tonnes a year – we are still working out just how much more than that. This is not compatible with the “clean green image” they like to use to sell their milk overseas.

There is a big opportunity here for Fonterra to position themselves as working towards sustainability by transitioning to wood waste. In fact they told us they were doing that, but are dragging the chain. We intend to keep the pressure on to help them recognise their own self-interest.

The Unequal Battle for the Environment: Update On Mangatawhiri Hearings, 3 September

Jeanette Fitzsimons follows up her earlier report, Second Elephant Needed at Mangatawhiri:

Today there was no elephant, despite the need for two. It just shows how hard it is for unpaid voluntary activists to be there all the time at a hearing like this – an hour’s drive from where most anti-coal people live, during working hours. No-one was available today to be the elephant. Most were preparing to give their submissions.

It was also child care time. Our own Marisa, pregnant with her twins, had her pre-school son there and was diverting him with his own video screen and an apple and frequent trips outside, at the same time as trying to record our submitters and witnesses.

(Here’s a request from Marisa: If you’re on Facebook, please Like the climate elephant!)

Fonterra’s lawyers had no such constraints – on well paid time, transport and meals funded, children, if they have any, being cared for elsewhere. Such is the unequal battle for the environment.

Some interesting issues that arose include: can a financial agreement with an affected person absolve the firm from meeting standards for dust pollution at that person’s home? What about if they sell it? What about people who visit? that issue is flagged to come back on the table for discussion.

There is no baseline data for the state of the environment before the coal mine. They propose to monitor levels of dust and noise but how can we know what is caused by the mine if there is no date from before? They propose to monitor for a month before, to establish such data. This is a nonsense. We need at least a couple of years’ data to see what happens in every weather and season.

All this of course would be unnecessary if we looked a little wider and adopted a renewable fuel technology that leaves the coal in the hole and uses a fuel that is renewable and clean and currently being wasted. That is the substance of CANA’s submission today. The first part is just legal argument that our concerns are relevant. the second part outlines an alternative scenario to avoid the mine.

Our witness John Gifford gave it weight with his experience and knowledge:

We were not prevented from presenting this, but the chair has said he thinks it is not relevant and will give it little or no weight. The legal argument is designed to make him think again about this.

The hearing adjourned at lunchtime and reconvenes again tomorrow at 9am

Second Elephant Needed at Mangatawhiri

Today began the second week of hearings on Glencoal’s (a wholly owned coal mining subsidiary of Fonterra’s who sell only to their parent company) application for consents to construct an open cast coal mine on 30 ha of farmland beside SH2 at Mangatawhiri. The hearing is before a panel of three commissioners, on behalf of the regional and district councils, chaired by David Hill.

Last week was totally given over to evidence from Fonterra (Glencoal). Today the panel will hear from local residents who support the mine. I’m told they are the ones closest to it and potentially most affected by the dust, noise, etc it will create. But they are supporting Fonterra, who told one of the submitters that they had “reached an arrangement”. How much, of course, will be confidential.

Then the panel will hear from Catherine Delahunty, representing the Green Party, and from local residents opposed to the mine.

Throughout the hearing an elephant has sat quietly in the front row, silent and well-behaved, with a sign around his neck “Climate change is the elephant in the room”. No-one, to my knowledge has referred to his presence, just as no-one is allowed to refer to climate change, the chief reason for opposing new coal mines, because previous courts have ruled that that is what the law means.

But climate change is not the only elephant in the room and needs a mate.

Tomorrow CANA is due to appear at 9am. Our submission focussed only on the availability of a solution which would avoid all the adverse effects of the mine, while creating the same benefits, including more jobs. We have an excellent expert witness, John Gifford, who has spent his career working on the use of wood as fuel. Among other senior positions he has worked for Forest Products and Scion over the years. He calculates that there is enough waste wood from forestry operations, most of which is currently left to rot, to replace the 120,000 tonnes of coal a year the mine would extract. All of it is within 110 km of the dairy factories and much of it is within 30 km.

CANA argues that it is time to start a transition to wood fuels in place of coal, and that could start by co-firing wood and coal in the current boilers. Using just wood would require capital investment in different handling and combustion facilities, but a new mine requires capital investment too. What we want is a commitment from Fonterra to start this transition.

However the chair’s ruling on the legal submission I made on Friday, says that this hearing is just about the mine and its effects. The use of the coal, and alternatives to it are not on the table. But Fonterra itself presented evidence from two witnesses on why using wood was not an option for them. This has opened the door, according to the chair, for us to rebut that evidence. But they expect our evidence to be tabled and are “unlikely to require” that our witness appear.

It seems one of the arguments, made by Fonterra (or was it Glencoal?) is that they are two separate companies. Glencoal has made the application and they are not responsible for what Fonterra does with the coal when it is sold to them – in fact it could, the chair speculated, even be sold to someone else!

Ah – but the economic benefit claimed for the project is all in terms of feeding Fonterra’s boilers and allowing our largest industry to continue on its merry course. Seems to me they can’t have it both ways.

Our second elephant would have a sign around his nick, “Wood waste is the second elephant in the room”.

At this stage we don’t know whether “unlikely to require” means “will not permit” our witness to appeal. So we are going ahead as planned. A number of journalists are interested in wood waste as an alternative to the mine so the work will never be wasted.

I’ll let you know after tomorrow what happens.

– Jeanette Fitzsimons


Fonterra: Contaminated By Coal

Fonterra could use wood wasteFonterra is yet again in the news for a product safety scare that has major international consequences for New Zealand. The initial problem has been compounded by Fonterra’s secretive and arrogant corporate culture. In the process, Fonterra have shown New Zealand’s already threadbare “100% Pure” branding to be transparently dishonest, as the Guardian has recently noted.

Another way Fonterra shows their arrogance is by continuing to choose to burn coal in the heat plants of their dairy factories, even when they have the option of using a renewable fuel – wood and wood waste – instead. In fact, Fonterra are New Zealand’s third largest domestic user of coal.

Later this month, a resource consent hearing will be held for a new coalmine Fonterra wants to open at Mangatawhiri, near Auckland, to fuel one of its dairy factories. They could use wood – but they choose to use coal.

Now, while Fonterra’s wrongdoing has been exposed and the company is on the defensive, is the right time to let the nation and the world know that Fonterra’s products aren’t just contaminated by dirty pipes – they are contaminated by Fonterra’s use of coal in its plants. Fonterra don’t like to listen – but at the moment, they don’t have much choice.

To find our more about Fonterra and coal, you can read Rosemary Penwarden’s eloquent post calling on Fonterra to do this right thing and quit coal.

Submit Now On Fonterra’s Proposed New Mine Near Auckland

Fonterra wants to build a new coal mine at Mangatawhiri, near Auckland, and Auckland Coal Action is working with local residents to oppose it.

Submissions on the proposed mine are now open and close on Thursday 28 March. Please make a submission using this handy submission guide:

Site of Fonterra's proposed Mangatwahiri mine

Site of Fonterra’s proposed Mangatwahiri mine

Coal is Fonterra’s dirty little secret. You can find out more about that here:

Auckland Coal Action have also created an excellent leaflet about Fonterra’s plans, which is also available for you to download.

ACA Fonterra leaflet