Category Archives: Green Party

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.

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 – 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

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

Advance media coverage of the Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival

Otago Daily Times: Campaigners plan anti-mining festival

Southland Times: Activists prepare to keep coal in hole

Plus, Julie Anne Genter is blogging her cycle journey to the Festival: at frogblog and Jeanette Fitzsimons had The high cost of lignite projects published in the Dominion Post.

Keep the Coal in the Hole – Jeanette Fitzsimons speech


The Earth is one of those things that are bigger than politics and if we are to protect it we need to rise above the petty scrapping that often passes for political debate.

I look forward to a future Earth Day when we can celebrate New Zealand’s leading role in seriously reducing emissions from dirty fuels like coal. I look forward to a day when kiwi and wetlands are valued more than the export dollars underneath them, and when we can flick on a light and know that energy came from renewable and non-polluting sources.

Read on…