Category Archives: politics

The Government Is Trying To Classify Protests At Sea As Terrorism – Submit By Friday

There have been many famous seaborne protests in New Zealand’s history. Some of them – like the Moruroa ship visits – were even organised by the Government of the day. But the current National Government is trying to classify ship-borne protests as terrorism, and we only have until this Friday to say “No!”

Why should a group campaigning against new and expanded coal mines care about that? Although protests against nuclear ship visits might come to mind first when we think of seaborne protests – and indeed, the Government appears to be rushing this Bill through in advance of a planned US warship visit – New Zealnd has also seen seaborne protests against oil exploration and coal shipments in recent years. Continue reading

Political Consensus Grows Around The End Of Thermal Coal

For anyone still thinking that mining coal and burning it to provide heat or create electricity (that is, mining thermal coal) is a good way to make a buck, August 2015 was full of bad news.

First, Wellington’s Dominion Post newspaper said in an editorial that it was time for New Zealand to slash its coal use. Then, the same day, Genesis Energy announced that it would close the coal-fired power generators at the Huntly power plant by 2018.

No more coal at Huntly ... who'll be next to abandon coal?

No more coal at Huntly … who’ll be next to abandon coal?

But the writing was appearing on the wall even before these announcements. Not only had the thermal coal price dropped precipitately in response to the rise of renewable energy and environmental concerns in coal’s major markets, but there is a growing political consensus that thermal coal mining in New Zealand must stop.

This consensus does not yet include the National Government. While Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges welcomed Genesis Energy’s Huntly decision, and noted that it created further opportunity for renewable energy, he conveniently ignored the Government’s continuing subsiding of fossil fuel mining and use and lack of support for renewables.

The Green Party has long opposed coal mining, and now Labour and New Zealand First are, at least partially, moving in the same direction. In response to the Government’s statement that state-owned coal mining company Solid Energy might be facing liquidation, Labour Party leader Andrew Little – himself a former head of the coal miners’ union, the EPMU – drew a distinction between using coal for heating and power generation, which he agreed was on the way out (audio at 1:41), and using coking coal for making steel, which he said was “part of a green economy.”

New Zealand First’s Richard Prosser was similarly bullish on Solid Energy’s future, but both in his reported comments and in separate discussions with Coal Action Network Aotearoa, NZ First has drawn a distinction between coking coal and thermal coal. New Zealand First’s 2014 election policy calls for a progressive phaseout of coal:

The most effective way to reduce the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (primarily carbon dioxide and methane) is to progressively phase out the burning of fossil fuels, especially coal, and instead use renewable energy eg wind-power, photo-voltaic electricity from sunshine, wood fuels, etc. (Climate Change section of NZ First Environment and Conservation policy)

When we met with New Zealand First, they advocated a similar position to the Labour Party: that is, they expressed continued support for coking coal, but agreed that it was time to move away from the mining and burning of thermal coal.

But while businesses and political parties are moving to end the use of thermal coal, there is one large New Zealand company which is bucking the trend – and that, of course, is Fonterra which, as we reported last month, has increased its coal use 38% since 2008 and plans a further major expansion of coal-fired milk drying plants. Fonterra’s low-value-add, high-energy-input business plan is coming unstuck as global milk prices fall. It’s time for Fonterra to take another path.

Though the political consensus is growing against thermal coal, Labour and New Zealand First are both continuing to back the mining of coking coal – that is, coal used for steel production – even though the coking coal price has also slumped, and burning coking coal is no better for the climate than burning thermal coal. You can read Cindy Baxter’s take on the shaky state of coking coal in her recent analysis of the state of play in the coal industry.

The message to companies such as Fonterra is clear: by backing the increased use of thermal coal, you are on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of science, and the wrong side of a growing political consensus.

We put our Heads in the Sand last Sunday. This Monday, it’s time to tell National MPs to Cut the Gap on climate change.

Cartoon by @domesticanimal for the Christchurch Press. Reproduced by permission of Sharon Murdoch

Cartoon by Murdoch for the Christchurch Press. Reproduced by permission of @domesticanimal.

We took action last Sunday…

Heads in the Sand last Sunday, in which a thousand or so New Zealanders at 12 beaches around the country put their heads in the sand to symbolise the Government’s failure to act on climate change, was a great success.

It was covered on TV1, on NZ’s leading Chinese-language TV station, by a German TV crew, on Stuff, in the Herald, on Scoop, by radio  channels including Newstalk ZB,  in the International Business Times and in the “The Ecologist” magazine. And it clearly rocked Climate Change Minister Tim Groser, who was forced to defend his Government’s awful record on climate change and ludicrously inadequate climate negotiating position just as he prepared to leave for the COP 20 climate talks in Lima.

You can see videos, photos and reports from Heads in the Sand here:

https://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/?s=head+in+the+sand

…Now let’s follow up this coming Monday

Continue reading

National’s Mining Agenda Has Failed

So it’s come to this:

The National-led Government’s ambition to have the mining, and separate oil and gas sector, underpin economic recovery has borne little long term gains in its past two terms.

– from mining industry magazine NZ Resources, 20 August 2014

After two terms of promoting mining, and bending over backwards to accommodate mining, and opening up conservation land and the seabed to mining, and removing legal impediments to mining – National has nothing to show for it, and the nation has nothing to show for it either, unless you count a broken-down briquetting plant in rural Southland that, at last count, employed one person.

But one thing we have learned about this National Government is that its reaction to the failure of its policies is to try even harder to force them through. So, if National is re-elected, expect further attempts to gut resource management law and other impediments to mining. Expect more grandiose claims of jobs that never materialise. And expect another three years wasted while action on climate change is desperately needed.

When even the mining industry’s own publication acknowledges that the Government’s mining policies have failed, you know the scale of failure has been epic indeed.

Fellowship of the Drill? What was our PM thinking?

Yep, we made it to The Guardian Environment's front page - for all the wrong reasons.

Yep, we made it to The Guardian Environment’s front page – for all the wrong reasons.

Our charming Prime Minister – and Minister of Tourism – has excelled himself with his latest video promoting drilling, fracking and the general digging up of our beautiful country and its offshore marine environment. The video was released last week.

While we could go on – and on – The Guardian’s summed it for us – . Blogger Graham Readfearn points out the irony of the moves by our Government to exploit what Key calls “our natural resources” – an irony that hasn’t escaped many of us here in NZ.

Some of the comments on the blog are telling:

Clearly tourism in NZ exists outside of the Lord of the Rings phenomenon. It is, after all, a fantastic country to visit.
However, how long will the tourism last if it ruins its environment through mineral extraction? And how long do you think those minerals will last? What then?

and

I really can’t understand why all these right wing politicians can only think of environmentally destructive and socially divisive ways of providing employment and earning money when their are so many environmentally constructive and socially enhancing alternatives.

To those who have visited our shores, the prospect of digging up NZ to sell it off to the highest international corporate bidder is clearly as bizarre a concept as it is to us.

 

Solid Energy and the National Government: So Happy Together

“The Government was worried about Solid Energy’s ambitious investment plans and rosy view of coal prices as far back as 2009 but was unable to order the company to steer a safer course, Prime Minister John Key says.” (26 February 2013, New Zealand Herald.)

Gee, that’s a surprise, Mr Prime Minister! Because here’s what you said on 3 June 2011:

“Speaking in Invercargill yesterday, Mr Key said he supported Solid Energy’s plan to dig up lignite and turn it into briquettes, saying the Government wanted companies such as Solid Energy, which is Government-owned, to expand.” (PM backs mining south’s lignite, Southland Times)

And here is a picture from the National Party’s own photo stream of John Key’s deputy, Bill English, turning the first sod for Solid Energy’s pilot lignite briquetting plant – a plant which now lies useless in the middle of the Mataura Valley:

Don Elder and Bill English: So happy together

Don Elder and Bill English: So happy together

Isn’t it nice the way Don lets Bill take the lead? Isn’t it nice the way they both smile for the camera? Isn’t it a pity how rats fight to be first to leave the sinking ship?

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.

Do You Want Mining Companies To Have Easier Access To Your Land?

The Government is currently reviewing the Crown Minerals Act 1991, and submissions on the review close on Friday 20 April. We think it’s a good idea for as many people as possible to submit on this review – so, if making submissions is your thing, this is a good thing to submit on.

Why? Well, to address the headline issue first, there have been suggestions that the Government plans to use this review to water down or even remove the provisions in the Crown Minerals Act that currently give private landowners the right to refuse mining companies access to their land. We think this might be quite an unpopular change, not least with farmers.

But there are other, wider matters worth commenting on, as outlined in the excellent submission guide on the Green Party blog at http://www.greens.org.nz/takeaction/submissionguides/review-crown-minerals-act-1991-regime – the following bullet points come from the Green Party submission guide:

  • Currently the Crown Minerals Act allows the Government to grant permits for deep sea oil drilling. We suggest amending the Crown Minerals Act to prohibit permits for prospecting, exploration and production of oil in waters greater than 200 metres deep. Deep sea oil drilling is too risky.
  • Under the Crown Minerals Act, the Government grants permits for oil and gas exploration that allow companies to use the controversial practice of fracking – pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressure deep into the earth in order to extract oil and gas. Please tell the Government that oil and gas exploration permits should not allow fracking until the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment can assure the public it is safe.
  • Mining and extraction has adverse effects on landforms, oceans, waterways and ecosystems. It is currently prohibited in National Parks and various other types of reserve, but under the Crown Minerals Act 1991 it occurs contentiously in other parts of the conservation estate. Tell the Government to amend the Crown Minerals Act to prohibit new exploration, prospecting and mining on conservation land and reserves.

The Green Party submission guide lists many more aspects of the review that you can comment on, and tells you the ways that you can make a submission. Here is some further information:

Submissions due: 5pm Friday 20 April 2012

Postal address: Resources Policy Group, Ministry of Economic Development, PO Box 1473, Wellington 6140

EmailCMAReview@med.govt.nz

There are a series of review questions that the Ministry is asking for feedback on, and of particular interest is Chapter 2: Health, safety and environmental (HSE) matters. It is a fairly short chapter to read and worth giving feedback on! Also of interest are Chapter 4: Petroleum, and Chapter 5: Tier 1 Minerals, especially the review questions relating to HSE matters.

Submissions due on Mixed Ownership Model Bill & Crown Minerals Act Review

There are two important submissions deadlines looming that may be of interest to many of you:

  1. The Mixed Ownership Model Bill, submissions due on Friday 13 April
  2. The Review of the Crown Minerals Act Regime, submissions due Friday 20 April.

We have included links to the relevant discussion documents and submission guides, helpfully prepared by other groups.

We are aware that these two pieces of legislation are core pieces of National’s policy and that the Government will be reluctant to change either of them. However, we feel it is important to show the extent of the opposition to these proposed legislative changes as they are both likely to lead to a significant increase in coal mining in New Zealand.

If our many submissions are ignored, we expect to have to show opposition in other ways!

1. Mixed Ownership Model Bill

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill needs to be passed in order for the government to begin the sale of state owned assets. National has identified a number of state-owned energy companies that it wishes to partly privatize, including Solid Energy. If Solid Energy is privatized, this will provide foreign investment to kick start Solid Energy’s bigger lignite plans, and also make it harder for a future New Zealand government to impose restrictions on Solid Energy’s coal mining activities.

This is an opportunity to show the government the level of opposition to asset sales, so we would encourage people to put together a short (or long!) submission outlining why you are opposed to these plans. The Green Party has put together a great submission guide online, check it out at: http://www.greens.org.nz/takeaction/submissionguides/submission-guide-government-bill-partially-privatise-our-energy-companies

Submissions due: 5pm Friday 13 April

Address submissions to: The Chairperson, Finance and Expenditure Committee, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Or make an online submission at http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/MakeSub/0/2/d/50SCFE_SCF_00DBHOH_BILL11223_1-Mixed-Ownership-Model-Bill.htm

2. Review of the Crown Minerals Act Regime

The Crown Minerals Act Regime is also under review. The purpose of the review is to “encourage the development of Crown-owned minerals so that they contribute more to New Zealand’s economic development; streamline and simplify the regime; and to ensure better coordination of regulatory agencies.” BUT! Many of the proposed changes will erode the already weak regulatory regime and open the country up further to mining.

We encourage you to take time to read the discussion paper and the proposed changes to the petroleum and minerals regime. Details at
http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/natural-resources/oil-and-gas/review-of-the-crown-minerals-act-regime/

The Green Party has information about the Crown Minerals Act Review and a sample submission here: http://www.greens.org.nz/takeaction/submissionguides/review-crown-minerals-act-1991-regime

Submissions due: 5pm Friday 20 April 2012

Postal address: Resources Policy Group, Ministry of Economic Development, PO Box 1473, Wellington 6140

Email: CMAReview@med.govt.nz

There are a series of review questions that the Ministry is asking for feedback on, and of particular interest is Chapter 2: Health, safety and environmental (HSE) matters. It is a fairly short chapter to read and worth giving feedback on! Also of interest are Chapter 4: Petroleum, and Chapter 5: Tier 1 Minerals, especially the review questions relating to HSE matters.

The Green Party Mining Our Future Community Tour

Green Party MPs Catherine Delahunty and Gareth Hughes are holding a series of hui to discuss the Government’s broad “drill it, mine it” agenda for Aotearoa:

What’s happening, what does it mean to our environment and communities and how do we stop it? These meetings are aimed at groups and individuals who are interested and engaged in working to protect Aotearoa from the destructive social and environmental impacts of mining.
From coal (lignite and conventional), gold, iron sands and other mineral mining to fracking and deep sea oil drilling there is a broad agenda of resource extraction on the table. We would like to discuss with you your concerns and the impacts, risks and opportunities towards clean alternatives and a green economy.

Auckland – Wednesday 11th April, 7 – 9pm
Lecture Theatre B15, Library Basement, University of Auckland

Hamilton – Monday 16th April, 7 – 9pm
Trade Union Centre, 34 Harwood Street

Wellington – Tuesday 17th April, 7 – 8.30pm
Mezzanine Room, Wellington Library, 65 Victoria Street

Christchurch – Thursday 19th April, 7 – 9pm
Workers Educational Association, 59 Gloucester Street

Dunedin – Monday 30th April, 7.30 – 9.30pm
Practice Room, Clubs and Societies Building, 84 Albany Street

For more information contact Alina Siegfried on 04 801 5297 or alina.siegfried@parliament.govt.nz