31 May 2011
Where to next with the lignite campaign?

CAN Aotearoa exists with four broad objectives – see http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com/about/.  Our main campaign focus currently is the campaign against Southland lignite.

Our main work for the first half of 2011 has been education and getting in touch with more people (i.e. growing the number of people on the announcement list).  We reckon there are likely heaps of people across Aotearoa who will be deeply concerned about the lignite proposals, when they hear about the issue!  So, if you have friends or family who would be interested, please encourage them to join this list by emailing coalactionnetwork@gmail.com.  Likewise, if you’re in a town or city where we haven’t yet held a public meeting (i.e. everywhere except Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Invercargill), and would be willing to organise such a meeting, then please get in touch.

We’ve been stoked to work with Southern Anti Coal Action (SACA, Dunedin), and to hear about the Nelson-Tasman anti-coal-mining activism that is gearing up, as well as rumours of campaign groups against coal forming in Auckland and on the West Coast.  If you’re keen to do that kind of on-the-ground organising then forming a local group is the way to go.  (These aren’t branches of CAN; just groups like SACA who are committed to opposing new and expanded coal mining).  We can use the announcement list to find other people in your town, and CAN Aotearoa can provide leaflets and other resources.

Within the lignite campaign, our strategy involves investigation (gathering info, research), education, preparation for direct action, direct action, and ongoing struggle.  (Each stage continues when the next begins.)

Whether it’s a good idea to put time and energy into opposing the lignite proposals through the established channels, such as resource consent applications, is a judgement call. The current system is heavily stacked against groups objecting to proposals on environmental grounds; equally, there have been cases where legal action has played a prominent role in the successful outcome of a campaign. We will keep looking at the options available in this area.

Some people have been asking why we’re not in Southland occupying now.  First of all, we are far from the only group working on these issues and others are welcome to take direct action at any stage!   Our strategy, which is based on our reading, our analysis and our experience in previous campaigns, leads us to want to have the numbers, the campaign strength, and a strategic point in time to take mass direct action.  (That doesn’t mean we can’t all begin taking ‘smaller’ direct actions in the near future, e.g. leafleting mining company events.)

We would like to see mass nonviolent direct action and mass civil disobedience (like the huge march against mining in conservation lands in 2010) rather than just media stunts.  Media stunts are primarily aimed at getting media attention; nonviolent direct action is an action which your opponent cannot ignore / must respond to.  We also want to be involved in direct action where lots of people are empowered to take action, which means we need to keep getting more and more people involved.

For CAN Aotearoa, we are determined to build up to a sustained campaign against Southland lignite rather than go in – and out – with a bang right now.  Nonviolent direct action brings with it a lot of other work – especially fundraising for legal fees and fines  – so again, now is the time to be building the capacity of our movement to do that work.  The other essential step before taking direct action is our own preparation, such as reading and training, which we can all begin now.  See below for ideas.

What is nonviolent direct action?

Here is one definition, taken from Allan Cumming’s excellent booklet How Nonviolence Works (Dunedin: Nonviolent Action Network in Aotearoa, 1985).


‘Most definitions of nonviolence include some aspect of “non-harm” to the opponent…

Second, nonviolence includes a positive approach to conflict…

Third, nonviolence separates the opponent as a person from the issue being opposed…

Fourth, nonviolence extends the principles of non-harm to the others in our movement, as well as our opponents…

Fifth, nonviolence incorporates, for many people, an integrated view of the world, both personal and political.’ – p. 10

Direct action

‘The usual meaning of the phrase [direct action] today is “action which…realises the end desired, so far as this lies in one’s power or the power of one’s group” (Wieck, ‘The Habit of Direct Action,’ in Ehrlick, Ehrlick, De Leon & Morris, Reinventing Anarchy, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1979).  This excludes actions aimed at influencing third parties or raising public awareness, which are referred to as indirect actions.  It includes only those actions which directly affect the injustice being opposed.’ – pp 12-13

‘One common confusion is between “direct action” and “civil disobedience”.  Many people assume the two are the same.  This is not so.  Civil disobedience may include direct action.  Direct action may include civil disobedience.  Neither necessarily assumes the other.

INDIRECT (symbolic) ACTIONS Street March (with permits) Die-in on city street to protest against nuclear weapons
DIRECT ACTIONS Boycott of a company’s products (eg the Nestle’s Boycott) Occupation of a construction site to prevent work


Recommended reading

Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973.

  • I, Power and Struggle. June 1973.
  • II, The Methods of Nonviolent Action. June 1973.
  • III, Dynamics of Nonviolent Action. November 1985.

Gene Sharp, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential with Joshua Paulson, Extending Horizons Books, 2005.

You can listen to a recent interview with Gene Sharp on Radio New Zealand here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2489971/gene-sharp-non-violence-theorist.asx

Allan Cumming, How Nonviolence Works, Dunedin: Nonviolent Action Network in Aotearoa, 1985.  (CAN Aotearoa is trying to source more copies of this booklet.)

Ed Hedemann (ed.), War Resisters League, Organisers Manual, New York: War Resisters League, 1981

Coover, Deacon, Esser & Moore, Resource Manual for a Living Revolution, Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1977, 1978

We’ll aim to provide links to online readings in the next newsletter.


NVDA Training

We hope to run nonviolent direct action (NVDA) training in towns around the country, and certainly in Southland, to which you will be warmly invited.  We will circulate information in spring, so watch this space.

Your experience and recommended readings

Have you been involved in training people for nonviolent direct action in the past and would you be interested in doing so in the future?  Or do you have NVDA readings to recommend to CAN Aotearoa?  If so, please email coalactionnetwork@gmail.com – we’d love to hear from you.

– Frances Mountier and Tim Jones

Southland Energy Strategy

Dave Kennedy from Southland is encouraging all of us – not only Southlanders – to comment on Venture Southland’s draft Southland Energy Strategy. Here are the details:

Energy is an issue that affects us all. Venture Southland has been working with key stakeholders to develop the Southland Energy Strategy. The draft is now ready and can be viewed here:
www.southlandnz.com/energy <http://www.southlandnz.com/energy>

You will see the link to download the document on the right hand side.

The recently (and prematurely) released national New Zealand Energy Strategy is pathetic indeed. Let’s make sure that Southland’s energy strategy reflects what we who live here think and want for our sustainable future. Please read, submit a comment and feel free to forward to your contacts.

In particular Venture Southland is keen to know:
– Are they on the right track with the energy vision?
– Do you agree with the strategic actions?
– Does your organisation view itself as playing a part in the implementation of any of the actions?
– Which actions do you feel are higher priority?

Comments are due no later than Thursday 16 June 2011. A submission form can be downloaded on the website.

Any questions about the strategy, please contact Karyn Owen at Venture Southland:
DDI: 03 2111 801
M: 021 932 340
E: karyn@venturesouthland.co.nz 

Coal Mining On The West Coast
Although our main focus is on plans to mine lignite in Southland, it’s not our only focus. We are also opposed to the rash of new coal mine plans elsewhere in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Here’s a report from Coal News, Westport, about more mining company plans to damage the environment of the West Coast.
Billion dollar corporations carve up coal plateau

Perth-based Bathurst Resources plans a series of opencast mines at the Denniston end of the Buller Coal Plateau. Over the past couple of years the company has bought up a raft of mining licenses and a small operating mine called Cascade.
In the next six months they plan to start mining on their Brookdale license. 
And in a few weeks time hearings begin for their large scale Escarpment Mine Project.
All these mines are within a few km of each other. At present Escarpment is being drilled and so is their Deep Ck license on the  other side of the Waimangaroa R Gorge from Denniston.
At a recent meeting with local greens, executive gen manager Gerry Cooper said the company is now worth $1billion.
Meantime Solid Energy is pushing ahead with Cyprus/Happy Valley and preparing to opencast the old Mt William underground mine which is on the adjacent ridge.
SE is worth a similar amount to Bathurst, so we are faced with two very powerful and fast-moving corporations digging up the coal plateau.
Bathurst plans production of 2m tonne per yr of coking coal, and SE already averages this amount.
At a time when visiting climate scientist James Hansen is warning us that the burning of coal is the biggest threat to the future of the planet, our government is promoting coal mining with great gusto.
As with Stockton, natural values are very high in the Bathurst mining areas. Kiwi and Powelliphanta snails are the most obvious  losers. However the company insists it will enhance wildlife, keep creeks and rivers clean and even restore landscape contours. It makes it very hard for opponents of the mine to get a win at the upcoming Hearing and even the Environment Court. This is because the Resource Management Act is geared toward allowing projects to proceed as long as there’s plenty of mitigation.
So its important not to get too bogged down in legal wranglings but rather to mount a strong, broadly-based campaign.

– Coal News, Westport
Regional News

As groups working against lignite mining spring up in towns and regions around the country, we expect that this will be a growing section of the newsletter. To get the ball rolling, this news comes from Southern Anti-Coal Action (SACA) in Dunedin.
Coming up in Dunedin:
“The Story of Coal” a short presentation followed by a facilitated
open discussion hosted by the International Socialist Organisation
7:30pm, Thursday 2 June, Otago Room in the Clubs and Societies
Building, Albany Street.

Marvin Hubbard will be interviewing Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Bell
Murphy from CAN Aotearoa on the social and environmental consequences
of mining Southland’s lignite and the latest developments with the
campaign to stop it.

Tune in to Toroa Radio, Otago’s community access radio station, (1575 kHz AM )
Tuesday 31st May, 11am till 12am,

Look out for the Students for Environmental Action’s (SEA) display
about Southland Lignite in the University Link building.

Here is some news (about fossil fuels and extractive industries in general) from Climate Justice Taranaki:
‘The Renewable Energy Forum’

Red Cross Centre, 116 Gill St, New Plymouth
Tuesday 7 June 6:30-8:30pm
Free entry (koha welcome)

You are warmly invited to an evening of short films and inspiring presentations from some Taranaki locals who have set up or are experimenting with renewable energy production in Taranaki + questions and discussion.

‘ENEX’ Oil & Gas conference protest

TSB Stadium, New Plymouth
Friday 10 June 1:30pm-3:30pm ‘open for public’ session
Free entry (although it’s over $400 a head for full entry!)

“CEOs and management from the many national and international oil and gas companies drilling in the Taranaki region, will be attending this annual conference along with local contractors, recruitment agencies, lobbyists and government representatives.
There are scheduled talks on issues such as seismic drilling, fracking, deep-well injection and marine oil spills plus an industry expo. They’re opening the doors briefly on the second and last day so come along and tell them what we think of their dangerous and polluting industry. It’s not just the injuries and social disruption to our workers, the local pollution of land and waterways, the lies about that pollution and the promised jobs, but the global impacts of climate change that seriously effect everyone on this planet. Bring your whanau, friends and neighbours. Think of those who are being affected by this polluting industry and be creative with your messages!”
For more information on the conference visit www.enex.co.nz

Here’s a quick list of useful resources, news updates, and things you can do and pass on to friends.
GETUP campaign suggestion
One of our list members, Jocelyn Harris, has put a proposal on the Australian GETUP campaign site that GETUP launch a campaign against planned lignite mining in Southland.

To get from being a proposal to being an actual campaign, Jocelyn’s proposal needs a lot more votes. If you’re keen to help this happen, please vote for Jocelyn’s proposal here:

YouTube – Highlights from the 2011 Stop Deep Sea Oil Flotilla


YouTube – Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright – on her recent report “Lignite and Climate Change – the high cost of low grade coal”


Clare Browning: Two Hard Constraints: Climate Science, and Clean Coal
Another excellent article from Claire Browning on Pundit, focusing on the debate between James Hansen and Don Elder at the recent Institute of Policy Studies seminar in Wellington:


This is well worth sharing with people who need to know more about the issues and the stakes involved.

Climate Justice Taranaki

Email climatejusticetaranaki@riseup.net if you want to go on their newsletter list (say that in your email).
They send out stuff eg. newsletter or major news, about once a month.
Green Party “Keep The Coal In The Hole” Game
It’s Tetris with a twist:
Down with coal! The grassroots anti-coal movement goes global
From the Guardian: “Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink”
If anyone ever asks you why you are so concerned about plans to burn more fossil fuels, this article from the Guardian makes the urgency and scale of the problem clear:
A final word from James Hansen
Given that James Hansen’s tour has featured so prominently this month, it seems fitting to end with a quote from him:
“Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty. ‘Clean coal’ technology does not exist and carbon capture is not economically feasible.

Developed countries will need to complete their coal phase-out by about 2020, if global phase-out of coal is to be achieved by 2030. If coal emissions are phased out this rapidly— a tall order, but a feasible one— the climate problem is solvable.”

From http://www.stormsofmygrandchildren.com/climate_catastrophe_solutions.html