30 May 2011

Kia ora koutou,

Welcome to the May edition of the Coal Action Network Aotearoa monthly newsletter. It’s been a very busy month, with James Hansen’s tour being the focus of a lot of our energy – and it’s led to a big increase in the size of our mailing list.
Now the Hansen tour is over, the question becomes: what happens next? That’s a question the CAN Aotearoa organising group has been paying a lot of attention to, and we start talking about some of the potential answers in this newsletter.
Due to the amount of material to cover, this newsletter has been split into two parts. The Contents section below shows what can be found in each part. As you’ll see, Part 1 mostly covers news and current work, while Part 2 gets into more depth about the campaign and its plans, with more news and some useful resources to finish.
Tim Jones
for the Coal Action Network Aotearoa
Part 1
Things you need to know – our Twitter account, how to donate
What you can do right now
James Hansen’s tour of New Zealand
Solid Energy’s pilot briquetting plant resource consent application – latest news
Part 2
Where to next with the lignite campaign?
What is Nonviolent Direct Action?
Coal mining on the West Coast
Regional news
A final word from James Hansen
Things You Need To Know
To subscribe to our newsletter by email, please email coalactionnetwork@gmail.com with “Mailing list” in the subject line.
Follow Us On Twitter
If you are on Twitter, please follow our Twitter account, @coalaction, at https://twitter.com/#!/coalaction. Please look out for our tweets, retweet them, and encourage your followers to follow @coalaction as well.
Our Facebook Presence
We don’t have one – yet! But we’re working on that, and we should have some news about it soon.
In the meantime, though, we recommend that you Like the “Leave the Lignite, Save the Soil” page at:
How To Donate
As this campaign grows, our costs are beginning to increase. Thank you to all those who donated to us during the James Hansen tour. 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 simplest thing you can do is to ask a friend – just one friend – to join our email list.

If your friend agrees to join, please email us at coalactionnetwork@gmail.com and let us know their name, email address, and the part of the country they live in (region, town or city). Please make sure they have agreed before you send us their details!

Talk To Politicians

It’s coming up to election time and many parties are revising and redrafting their policies on things like energy, so now is a great time to try and influence these processes. Please write lots of letters to politicians, both local and national, and tell them your thoughts on coal, climate and Aotearoa’s energy future.
Your local electorate MP will hold ‘clinics’ at which constituents can come and talk about issues that concern you – so that’s a great chance to tell them that Southland lignite has to stay in the ground.

Also, the issue of lignite is getting more and more air time at the moment and Solid Energy are doing their best to ‘greenwash’ their plans. Let’s keep the letters flowing to newspapers, community publications, blogs etc. Below are some letter writing tips and examples.

Though letter writing is important, politicians have no obligation to consider what we say and carbon intensive business-as-usual has a lot of momentum. Therefore, if we are serious about keeping the coal in the ground, there is likely to come a time when nonviolent direct action (NVDA) will be necessary. There are lots of creative and effective ways to take action – look out for the article on NVDA in Part 2 of this newsletter.

Write Letters

Here is a brief guide from one of our Southland supporters on writing letters to the Southland Times:

“Letters should be addressed: letters@stl.co.nz with the subject ‘The Editor’. Each should have your name and address along with your telephone number. The last round of ‘lignite letters’ was very successful and as far as I know, all letters were published. In my opinion, shorter letters have more impact.”

Here is some excellent advice from a seasoned activist on how to write effective letters:

Some tips on letter writing that might help you with letters to the editor (or to politicians). Letters don’t have to be brilliant, but following this formula will help.

Hook, Line and Sinker

Your first sentence should HOOK the reader.  You can do this by making a reference to the news story, a person, anything printable that makes the reader want to keep reading.

Your second and third sentence should outLINE your argument. Generally only one point or line of argument per letter because you have few words to play with.

Your final sentence should SINK the letter into the reader’s mind. You can do this by adding a twist or some other memorable remark at the end of the letter

Here’s an example:
(Note: opinions expressed in this example are not necessarily those of CAN Aotearoa)

The Government must be mad to consider lignite mining.

The government’s intention to “develop our energy potential” through a lignite and offshore oil boom is myopic in the extreme and, quite simply, amounts to stealing from our future.

Evidence from the paleoclimate history suggests that atmospheric CO2 has already reached a level that will trigger major climate disruptions, such as the gradual melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Future generations will either have to deal with the roughly 7m sea level rise that would ultimately result, or invest heavily in means to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere or counter the warming effect otherwise. Every new tonne of coal or oil that we dig up and burn adds to this “ecological debt” that will be passed on, with a very high interest rate.

The financial dimension is already real, because of our international commitments to reduce emissions. Growth in NZ’s emissions – particularly if the speculated lignite-to-diesel plants proceed – will mean future taxpayers must front up with a larger carbon bill. As the excellent analysis in Geoff Bertram and Simon Terry’s book The Carbon Challenge shows, while forestry is being used to offset emissions growth in the short-term, this simply passes the buck to harvest time around 2020. Technologies such as carbon capture and storage are still experimental and have yet to be proven safe and viable.

Meanwhile, short-term profits will accumulate largely in the pockets of wealthy investors. Is this progress? The government’s “growth at all costs” mentality needs to go. We need to keep that lignite in the ground as a matter of urgency.

SINKER: The mammoth costs of dealing with climate change render any short term profits from fossil fuels irrelevant and insane to pursue.

Join Groups
Get involved in a group in your area that is working against lignite mining and its environmental and economic consequences – or start one!
Information from some existing groups is in the “Regional News” section of the newsletter – see Part 2.

Eastern Southland residents can get involved in Lower Mataura Landcare – to do so, please email railway@callsouth.net.nz
And if you live in Auckland, please check out this report from Marisa Maclachlan:
Exciting Auckland developments

The two James Hansen meetings in Auckland were well attended with over 100 new Coal Action Network Aotearoa supporters signed up at each event. At the second of these, the Festival for the Planet, Jeanette Fitzsimons facilitated a workshop on South Island Lignite. Workshop participants showed an interest in diverse areas of action including community outreach, nonviolent direct action, communicating through arts and music, fundraising and using online tools to organise the campaign more effectively There were lively discussions on each of these topics and many of those at the workshop expressed an interest in forming a local Auckland branch of the campaign.

The first meeting of the new Auckland group will be publicised through this email list, so watch this space!

Please email marisa.maclachlan@gmail.com if you are willing to do some organising work to help get this group off the ground.

James Hansen’s Tour of New Zealand
Many of you will have attended one or more of the public meetings during the tour of New Zealand by NASA climate scientist James Hansen. The tour was a great success – in particular, huge numbers of people turned out at each venue, to the point where overflow venues with video links had to be set up in several locations. 1000 people turned out in Dunedin, 300 turned out in Gore, 250 in Christchurch … the list goes on.
James Hansen had three events in Southland – an invitation-only luncheon and a public meeting in Gore, followed by a closed-door meeting with Southland business leaders in Winton. The organisation of the luncheon came together thanks to a lot of hard work from a number of our Southland supporters, and as someone who grew up in Gore, I can tell you that getting 300 people to a public meeting there is impressive indeed.

Here is Dave Kennedy’s report of James Hansen’s visit to Gore: http://localbodies-bsprout.blogspot.com/2011/05/gore-hosts-hansen.html
In Wellington, James Hansen’s public meeting was attended by a crowd of 600 people, to the point where the overflow venue itself needed overflow venues – as happened in Dunedin, too.
The following day, Dr Hansen took part in a seminar on the future of coal in New Zealand hosted by the Institute of Policy Studies, and featuring Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, and Dr Don Elder. As usual, Don Elder sounded convincing and reasonable until the moment anyone challenged him, at which point the sarcasm came out along with the evasive answers. He spent five minutes attacking our “Keep the Coal In The Hole” slogan, which is a sign our campaign is beginning to get to him.
The Science Media Centre has a number of quotes from participants in the event: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1105/S00045/experts-on-lignite-proposals-future-of-coal.htm
James Hansen’s visit has led to a big upsurge in our mailing list, the forging of links between disparate groups,  and the imminent formation of at least one local group – see “Exciting Auckland developments” above. Huge thanks go to the organisers and backers of this tour.
Finally, James Hansen has laid down a challenge to John Key, as seen in this open letter:
I wonder whether, and how, the Prime Minister will respond? [Post-script: By backing the briquetting plant it would seem! See http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/5094448/PM-backs-mining-souths-lignite/]
Video and audio of James Hansen’s presentation is available here:

and here:


Solid Energy’s Pilot Briquetting Plant Resource Consent Application
Here’s where things have got to:
Solid Energy applied to Environment Southland and the Gore District Council for resource consent to build its planned pilot briquetting plant near Mataura. After pressure exerted by Solid Energy’s lawyers (see http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2011/05/25/solid-energy-advised-environment-southland-against-notification/ and also http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/news/5003709/Miner-wanted-public-shut-out), both Councils decided to allow the resource consent applications to proceed non-notified, which means that there is no opportunity for the public to give their views. Gore District Council shut out public participation completely; Environment Southland gave certain named individuals and groups the right to respond (as described at http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/solid-energy-pilot-briquettin%e2%80%8bg-plant-consent-decisions-update/) – and even then, after Solid Energy modified its plans slightly, two of the people originally listed were subsequently struck off the list of those allowed to respond.
At the time of writing, as far as we are aware, not all of these named individuals and groups have given their consent to the application proceeding non-notified. We do know that Solid Energy is putting intense pressure on anyone whom it fears might object – and that Environment Southland and Gore District Council officials appear to be bending over backwards to smooth Solid Energy’s path. It’s not a good look, and it certainly isn’t democracy.
All these manoeuvrings have raised some interesting legal issues, and we are fortunate to be receiving excellent advice on these matters. We will continue to investigate the options for action in this regard. We also suggest that Southland residents not be shy about telling the relevant Councils what they think of the way that Council officers have handled these resource consent applications.
Here’s a press release from Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Frances Mountier, issued at the time Gore District Council made its non-notification decision.
Coal Action Network Aotearoa slams mining company for undermining NZ climate efforts
Press release: Coal Action Network Aotearoa
Friday 13 May
For Immediate Use

Coal Action Network Aotearoa has slammed Solid Energy for their non-notified consent applications for a pilot briquetting plant.

“We have just learnt that the Gore District Council has decided that the application may be processed non-notified.  Environment Southland made a similar decision on 2 May.  (1)  Under the Official Information Act, we have been released documents that show Solid Energy’s lawyers convincing the councils of this course of action.

‘This is the first of many lignite consent applications we are likely to see in Southland.  There are over 6 billion tonnes of lignite in Southland which Solid Energy and other massive mining companies want to extract, at great cost to local communities who will have to put up with air, noise and water pollution.

‘The Government’s Energy Strategy, which we released to the media a few weeks ago, shows that this Government is determined to push ahead with increased fossil fuel extraction, at a time when we need to be moving away from fossil fuels.  If all these lignite plans go ahead they will contribute 7 to 8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.  It comes as no surprise that Solid Energy are getting an easy ride through this consent process, but there are huge public interest issues at stake here.

‘This very week Dr James Hansen, top NASA climate scientist, is speaking to audiences across the country.   Dr  Hansen has warned, “Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.”  We encourage people across the country to join the campaign against lignite mining in Southland.

“Even though the Councils have let the public down, we, and many others, will be notifying the public of what is going on in Southland and why we must stop it,’ said Ms Mountier.



1. When a resource consent application is processed non-notified it means there is no chance for public submissions. However, if any of the parties who have been listed as ‘affected parties’ do not give approval for the application to proceed non-notified, then it will become a limited notification application.  However it will not be fully notified.

The rest of the newsletter is in Part 2, to be sent out shortly.