Kia ora koutou,

Welcome to the June edition of the Coal Action Network Aotearoa monthly newsletter – and a special welcome to those receiving this newsletter for the first time.

Unlike the last two months’ monster efforts, this newsletter is a single-parter, but there is still plenty going on, as you’ll see below.

Our July newsletter will go out earlier in the month than usual, and that will include some of the news, such as regional news, that isn’t included in this one.


Tim Jones

for Coal Action Network Aotearoa


  • CAN Aotearoa on social media: Twitter, Facebook, blog
  • How to donate to CAN Aotearoa
  • What you can do right now
  • Solid Energy’s pilot briquetting plant resource consent application – latest news
  • 10-year moratorium proposal
  • West Coast news
  • The Role of Strategic Planning in a Nonviolent Direct Action Campaign
  • Resources

CAN Aotearoa on Social Media

On Twitter

If you are on Twitter, please follow our Twitter account, @coalaction, at!/coalaction. Please look out for our tweets, retweet them, and encourage your followers to follow @coalaction as well.

On Facebook

Coal Action Network Aotearoa has set up a Facebook group:!/home.php?sk=group_218300434877031

It’s a closed group at the moment, but you can request to be added to it.

A Facebook page we encourage you to Like is Leave the Lignite, Save the Soil:!/pages/Leave-the-Lignite-Save-the-Soil/12917904715925

Our Blog

Keep up with the latest news about our campaigns on the Coal Action Network Aotearoa blog:

Lots of new content has been added recently – some of the links are included in Resources near the end of this newsletter.

How to Donate to CAN Aotearoa

As this campaign grows, our costs are beginning to increase. Thank you to all those who have donated during the past month. If you’d like to help us financially, you can donate as follows:

Coal Action Network
38 9011 0484435 00

What You Can do Right Now

Ask a Friend to Join

The first and easiest thing you can do is to ask a friend – just one friend – to join this list. If everyone on the list gets a friend to join, we double our numbers, and double our influence. Just ask your friend to email us at and let us know their name, email address, and preferably the part of the country they live in (region, town or city). That’s all it takes.

Rev up Your Local Politicians

It’s election season, and all over the country, small, nimble political animals are hunting out opportunities for publicity, while larger political animals are shaking off their triennial slumber and galumphing across the countryside in pursuit of palatable policies.

That creates opportunities for us, because this is the time of the electoral cycle when politicians of all stripes feel especially inclined to pay attention to their constituents. You live in an electorate, and that means you have an electorate MP – see this helpful map:

There will also be list MPs, and a whole host of candidates, in your area. Your local MP will hold ‘clinics’ – sessions where constituents can turn up and say what’s on their minds. Contact your MP’s electorate office to find out when the MP is holding a clinic in your area. When they ask what’s on your mind, you can tell them that lignite is, and coal, and climate change, and how those things will affect the way you may vote later this year.

Remember – there’s no need to be scared of your MP. This is the time when they are more scared of you.

Write A Letter to the Minister of Conservation

See “West Coast News” for a specific letter that needs to be written right now – and a template to get you started.

Solid Energy’s Pilot Briquetting Plant Resource Consent Application – Latest News

Solid Energy applied to Environment Southland and Gore District Council for consent to build a pilot briquetting plant near Mataura. Gore District Council approved the application non-notified, giving no chance for public input. Environment Southland allowed 12 named parties to comment on the application, and two of them chose to do so: Dongwha and the Southern District Health Board. You can read about that in these two articles, the second of which focuses specifically on the Southern DHB response:

We now await Environment Southland’s decision. Should the plant receive approval, Solid Energy have stated that it will take ten months to build.

The 10-Year Moratorium Proposal

Those of you who are members of our discussion list will have seen, and possibly taken part in, the lively discussion sparked by Dr Susan Krumdieck’s initial call for a 10-year moratorium on lignite mining in Southland. Overall reaction to this call has been very positive, and there have also been a number of suggested amendments. There has been particular interest in getting political parties to adopt this call as election campaign policy.

CAN Aotearoa’s position on mining of lignite coal, and indeed all coal, is clear: our first objective is to

Phase out coal mining and coal usage [in Aotearoa/New Zealand] within 20 years, initially by opposing new and expanded coal mines.

Therefore, we want a total ban on Southland lignite mining plans, and on other new coal developments, not just a 10-year moratorium.

But we recognise that such a ban may be a step too far at this stage for some groups and parties who are potentially sympathetic, and so we have proposed, in reaction to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ latest call for responses on the issue, that the following call go out for the 2011 general election campaign:

Call: We call for a ten-year moratorium on new coal mining and new coal-fired power stations in New Zealand.

Reason for the moratorium: Burning coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel activity on the planet. We are facing runaway climate change which will destroy our children’s and grandchildren’s lives and livelihoods. Based on what we know now, we must keep the coal (including lignite) in the ground rather than risk a massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Reason for the ten-year review period: At the end of the initial ten-year moratorium, it is appropriate to review the science of climate change and the technology of coal exploitation to see whether the moratorium should be lifted.

West Coast News

A local West Coast group is gearing up to fight against a proposed opencast coal mine on conservation land near Westport. Australian Bathurst Resources wants to dig up 6.1mt of coal, destroying 200ha of the ecologically significant Denniston Plateau. The company aims for annual production of 1.5mt initially — an increase in New Zealand’s coal exports of 62% — and has asked for a 35 year consent for its coal processing plant to enable further mining on the plateau.

The West Coast Environment Network, Jeanette Fitzsimons, Conservation Board and Forest and Bird appeared before the resource consent hearing last week along with local group Buller Conservation Group and various residents.

The Department of Conservation was conspicuously absent from those giving oral submissions, to the apparent frustration of the hearing committee, who lacked detailed ecological advice. Having DOC abandon its advocacy role on such a destructive large-scale project can perhaps best be explained by last year’s Schedule 4 debate; the public of New Zealand gave a resounding no to mining, and Gerry Brownlee said of the rest of the conservation estate… “New Zealanders have given the miners sector [sic] a clear mandate to go and explore that land.”

How you can help

West Coast Environment Network suggest the best action at this stage is to write to newspapers and the Minister of Conservation saying why you think this mine should be stopped. A template is given below, but your own words are always more powerful.

Template letter to the Minister (

Dear Minister,

I am writing to urge you to decline consent for a new open-cast coal mine on the Denniston Plateau near Westport. This mine would permanently destroy 200 hectares of a nationally significant ecosystem, kill or displace all resident wildlife, and significantly increase New Zealand’s contribution to climate change.

The Denniston upland coal measure is identified as a priority site for biodiversity management in the West Coast Conservation Management Strategy and has been given ‘high priority for protection’ by the Ministry for the Environment and Department of Conservation. I find it astonishing that your Department’s submission on the associated Resource Consent Application was neutral, given the significant impacts this mine would have on ecological and historic values.

The mine would not only result in the killing or displacement of
‘protected’ wildlife such as fernbirds, giant land snails, Great spotted kiwi, West Coast green geckos and speckled skinks; it would further diminish habitat for several threatened species.  Should the Department allow this mine to go ahead, the public of New Zealand would lose ownership of a high-value conservation area, and in return become liable for long-term acid mine drainage and weed control.

Your Department has obligations under the Conservation Act 1987 to manage for conservation purposes, all land, especially public conservation land.

Please adhere to this Act and decline this coal mining company access to our most intact upland coal measure ecosystem – do not let this unique environment be destroyed.

Yours sincerely,

Address (optional)

The Role of Strategic Planning in a Nonviolent Direct Action Campaign

This article is by Lynne Dempsey, who is a member of our discussion list, and it’s a response to our announcement in the May newsletter that we are beginning preparations for nonviolent direct action as part of the anti-lignite-mining campaign. In this article, Lynne looks at one of the aspects that’s needed to make an NVDA campaign successful.

If we are to seriously engage in a nonviolent campaign to pressure the government to abandon its plans to further expand coal mining, particularly the plans for processing and exporting lignite, then we will be in for a long hard struggle. We have the moral high ground and the science on our side. As  a democratically elected government, they have the majority of people on their side – what is regarded as ‘a mandate’. It will not be a pushover.

This is where the insights of Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution, distilled from 40 years of research, experience and analysis of resistance movements, would be invaluable.  Much of his work is concerned with opposition to oppressive regimes, but the key principles are applicable to campaigns within democracies. Gene Sharp stresses repeatedly that without good strategic planning most resistance struggles will fail to achieve their objective. Here is what he says about the role of strategy in non-violent action:
Historically, nonviolent action has often been an improvised type of action—sometimes even a spontaneous occurrence—with little or no advanced strategic planning to guide it. However, just as strategic planning is used in military conflicts and other types of activities, strategic planning can also be used in nonviolent action to increase its effectiveness. Strategic planning involves choosing clear objectives, devising a grand strategy (or master plan), more limited strategies for specific objectives that fit within the grand strategy, tactical (or short-term) planning, and the choice of specific methods to achieve tactical and strategic objectives.
As campaigners we will need to consider our own strength and that of the opposition before planning the tactics and methods to be used. Gene Sharp lists 198 possible methods – categorised as eg formal statements, symbolic public acts, drama and music, processions, social noncooperation, strikes, social, psychological and political intervention and so on. We need to come to grips with why people submit to rulers – even when it is against their own interests. Sharp identifies, for example, habit, self-interest, moral obligation to the state, psychological identification with rulers, indifference, lack of self-confidence. This awareness is crucial because the insight on which strategies for non-violence are based is that “a ruler cannot rule if the people do not obey” or in our situation, consent. Winning over the people is critical for the success of any campaign.

We need to identify the primary pillars of support for society – and which ones can be won over to support our objectives – civil servants, media, youth, workers, religious institutions, the business community, NGOs, clubs and social interest groups eg the Ahi Ka Action group (Ngati Porou and Te Whanau a Apanui) is directing a strongly worded brochure about deep sea drilling to hunters, fishermen, campers and divers concerned about oil spills on the East Coast.

Most of the Albert Einstein Institution’s publications can be downloaded from their website at  A good introduction to Gene Sharp’s approach can be found in “There Are Realistic Alternatives”. Speed read through to chapter two if you are short of time.  Read this along with the WWF Strategies for Change, or, as this is quite long, read Jeanette’s article based on the report, in Issue 60 of EnergyWatch (available from There is mounting evidence that facts play only a partial role in shaping people’s judgement. Emotion is often far more important. Awareness of this will influence how we ‘frame’ our communication strategies.

Finally, take a look at Rebecca Priestley in the June 25 Listener (Why is it taking us so long to do something serious about carbon emissions). She quotes Victoria University’s Martin Manning and environmental psychologist Taciano Milfont saying that NZ is waiting to see what other countries do – a ‘wait and see’ attitude by individuals and government – also “we don’t want to be different, we don’t want to go against the norm and if the norm is that everyone is waiting and seeing we want to wait and see too”. To turn this around, they say, we need to tell people that others are already acting eg governments in Europe are introducing really strong carbon reduction policies.

– Lynne Dempsey

News and Resources

Dr James Hansen: acting as well as talking

As this call to action makes clear, James Hansen is himself taking nonviolent direct action on climate change, and calling on others to do likewise:

Opposition to the Proposed Denniston Mine

While we’re on the topic of Dr Hansen, here is his video Evidence Against the Proposed Denniston Mine:

plus Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Frances Mountier talking on Breakfast TV on the same issue:

and Jeanette Fitzsimons’ submission against the mine (as a Word document):


Hands Across The Sands

A report and photos from the rapidly growing Top of the South anti-fossil-fuels-extraction campaign:

and CAN Aotearoa’s press statement in support of these actions:

Campaign Resources

We now have a resources page on our blog, which brings together lots of information and pictorial resources you can use in campaigning and to educate your friends. If you do nothing else, check out the photos of overseas lignite mines halfway down the page. This is what we’re trying to stop. This is what Solid Energy wants to unleash on Southland.

Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CAN Aotearoa) is a group of climate justice campaigners committed to fighting the continuation of coal mining in Aotearoa New Zealand.

CAN Aotearoa’s objectives are to:
1. Phase out coal mining and coal usage within 20 years, initially by opposing new and expanded coal mines.
2. Promote a cultural change so that mining and using coal are unacceptable.
3. Work towards a society where people and the environment are not exploited for profit.
4. Be part of a just transition to a coal-free Aotearoa New Zealand.

Find out more at:

Or join the CAN Aotearoa supporters list by emailing: