The situation for the future of coal in New Zealand is getting increasingly grim by the day, and the Government must start looking at ways to help local economies like the West Coast transition away from coal, Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA) said today.
The warning came from CANA representative Jeanette Fitzsimons, speaking in Blackball for May Day commemorations, where she launched an updated version of the group’s report, “Jobs After Coal.”
“Since we first published this report a year ago, there has been little good news for the coal industry. Just two days ago, Goldman Sachs again wrote down its outlook for coking coal prices, which are predicted to stay low well into the future.”
“Solid Energy should now be considered a stranded asset – even its chairman has resigned in a dispute with the Government over the company’s viability, and the banks are writing off their investments.
“The Chinese housing boom is now well over – and with it, the demand for steel, and with the Chinese Government moving to curb the climate-changing emissions from coal, the international coal industry is not in good shape.”
“And around the world, investors are starting to drop coal – from big companies like E-On parceling off its coal assets into a separate company – to huge sovereign funds like the Norwegian one – coal is a sunset industry.”
The coal companies cared little for communities like the West Coast, who have been left high and dry from the boom and bust industry with no support to re-train or find new ways of providing for their families.
“To be dependent on one or just a few big industries, owned from outside the region, who parachute in and out, is not sustainable,” she said.
The “Jobs After Coal” report contained case studies of some former coal communities who have successfully transitioned out of coal to a new economy, but it is very hard to do it without outside support.
“Such a transition has to be planned: this planning must be led from within the community, and must involve all local stakeholders – business, local government, entrepreneurs, unions, Iwi, non governmental organizations and polytechnics.”
“Government needs to get real about the future of coal in New Zealand – and set up a unit to resource a Just Transition in affected communities with research, contacts, interim support and some funds.”
Jobs After Coal – 2015 update – is available here.