Hi all Coal Action supporters,

Are the lignite projects dead, or just dormant? Why have so many directors left the Solid Energy Board? Who are the keynote speakers at Summerfest? And what went on at the Doha climate talks, where our intrepid Cindy had the real inside story?

This is the last newsletter for the year, compiled by Jeanette, and combines November and December, with the next one planned for after Summerfest, around the start of February. Tim is taking a well-earned break from the newsletter edit while he catches up with other work.


1. Summerfest
2. Rob McCreath in Dunedin
3. What’s up internationally?
4. What up with Solid Energy?
5. What’s up with Bathurst?
6. In brief….
PCE on fracking

1.  Summerfest returns: book now! 

Of course, the best way to update during this period is to come to Summerfest! Registrations are now open.

The link to the registration form is at the bottom of the registration page:
The programme is here.
The festival will be held in Gore, Southland, 18-21 January 2013. This year it’s called “Shaping our Future: we have options”

Key overseas guest will be Rob McCreath, chair of Friends of Felton, who this year succeeded in stopping a giant open cast coal mine and associated Di-Methyl-Ether chemical plant in the headwaters of the Murray-Darling river system, on good quality agricultural land. Come and hear how they did it!

Other great speakers include science writer Gareth Renowden on what has happened to the climate over the last year; ECO’s Cath Wallace on landowners’ rights; Peter Hardstaff from WWF on the BERL report they commissioned into alternative economic development paths for Southland, without the lignite. Workshops, great food, music, networking, strategising and action- based campaigning.

2. Rob McCreath in Dunedin

Dunedin folk are pleased to announce that Rob McCreath, founding president of Friends of Felton will be speaking in Dunedin on his way to Gore – Wednesday 16 January, 7pm at English Language Matters, Level 2, Evan Parry House, 43 Princes St (just south of the Octagon).

3.  International update

Update from Cindy:

I’ve just returned from Doha, from the last round of climate talks.  We didn’t expect to get much this year, and this was confirmed at the end of a long and difficult two weeks.   I was blogging for Hot-Topic – some links below.

The NZ Government proved to be at its most embarrassing yet – and won the dubious “colossal fossil” award for the first time – shared with Canada. My blog on it here.  Our Government backed away from Kyoto’s second commitment period, and tried (but failed) to get new rules that would allow us to trade emissions under the new regime.  Instead, we are now locked out of Kyoto’s trading rules after the end of 2015 and the future of our (already very weak) ETS is in doubt.  Let’s see what happens, but it means that we might actually have to start cutting emissions one day.

The talks also
·      severely curtailed the use of “hot air” in Kyoto’s second phase.
·      Agreed to only “continue talking” about climate finance, where developed countries have promised, by 2020, to provide $100 billion a year for developing countries to adapt to climate change and shift to renewable energy. This was a massive disappointment to the developing world, who have been waiting since these promises were made in 2009.
·      Agreed to keep discussions of “loss and damage” on the table – this was a major win for the developing world. Kit Vaughan at WWF explains.

Meanwhile scientists warned that we still have the ability to keep global warming below two degrees C, but that this window is closing. Waiting until 2020 for this new global agreement that our Minister Tim Groser seems to be trying to stake his reputation on would mean we have few choices left as a society.

4.  Solid Energy update

There is still no sign of the opening of the Mataura briquetting plant – still the same “hoping by the end of the year” statements. There is still no fertiliser partner for the urea plant which remains at the stage of a “feasibility study” (read: papers on a desktop). They are selling some of the 4,000 ha of farmland they purchased over recent years for lignite mining. There is still no prospect of any capital for their Think Big projects as the company is in no state to be privatised.

The chair of the Board, John Palmer, has been replaced by Mark Ford, and three directors have left the Board, before the end of their terms. Neville Snedden, a mining engineer from Australia, is the only replacement so far. Rumour has it that those to go were proponents of the lignite projects and that the shareholding ministers who appoint them may not be hugely supportive of these flights of fancy.

However Solid Energy has, finally and rather late, produced their Annual Report – too late for it to be reviewed this year by Parliament’s select committee, which will now have them in for questioning in February. Read it here.

It contains no major news we didn’t know about, but an interesting view of their priorities: all their 2012 targets for underground coal gasification, a dirty and poorly proven technology, were met, but none of their targets for their wood pellet operation, which they are closing down. So much for their commitment to sustainability.

The report also confirms that they have not achieved their 2012 targets for lignite-to-fertiliser, nor to liquid fuels; and that they have shifted their Coal Seam Gas project from Huntly to Taranaki where there is a much larger deep coal resource, but can’t progress this until they can access more capital. Shows how vital it is to stop the sale of the company – though their current financial woes are helping a lot with that.

It seems employment relations are at an all-time low, with the massive layoffs at Spring Creek and Huntly, and now the Westport News reporting workers have been told if they don’t accept the new work shifts then shortly they will have no choice.

Not likely to help Solid Energy achieve their objective to “continually attract, retain and develop highly competent, motivated and committed staff who ….see us as an exceptional employer.” (Annual Report p20)

5.  Bathurst at Denniston

Bathurst’s plan to open cast mine the stunning ecology of the Denniston plateau is still on hold pending two legal cases. The Environment Court appeal against the resource consent is virtually finished, though there probably won’t be a decision till the New Year.

Quentin Davies, barrister for West Coast Environment Network, succeeded in casting major doubt on the claims of financial benefit, drawing on economics work by Peter Clough of NZIER. The original consent was based largely on the huge financial benefit trumping the ecological disaster; now it turns out a lot of the “benefit” would not go to the Coast at all, but to Bathurst’s overseas shareholders.

Forest & Bird brought a strong case on the ecological values of the plateau that would be destroyed to gain this disputed economic “benefit”. We wait with interest to see how the court will deal with this.

The legal dispute over whether climate change is a valid consideration under the RMA continues. West Coast ENT has gained consent to take the case straight to the Supreme Court, by-passing the Court of Appeal, because of the public importance of the issue. That is likely to occur in March.

Then finally there will be consent for Bathurst to access the mine over conservation land from the Minister of Conservation, acting for the first time jointly with the Minister of Energy and Resources. This is based on the new criteria of the Crown Minerals Amendment Act that, if passed in its current form, will apply retrospectively to applications already under consideration. The Denniston clause, as it is being called.

6.  In brief…

The PCE on Fracking

Where fracking is for oil and gas it is not strictly part of CANA’s field of work, but where it is to obtain gas from underground coal we do take an interest as it opens up yet more fossil fuels to add their carbon to the atmosphere. Many people were disappointed the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment did not support a ban on the technology, but the strict safety conditions she recommended would be enough to stop it in its tracks for some time if they were adhered to. This is not the right industry to be self-regulating!


Some 700 young people, mostly 16-30, gathered at Auckland University to get active on climate change. It was organised jointly by Generation Zero and 350.org and the logistics and organisation were a real credit to those involved.

It’s impossible to give more than one person’s experience as there were many simultaneous workshops and panels and hard choices to make every day. But the buzz of enthusiasm and determination were palpable. CANA and Auckland Coal Action joined forces to run an information stall at lunchtime in the quad each day and we think the message about stopping new coal mines was well received.

Campaign Resources

You can find lots of campaign resources in one place on the Resources page of our blog

How to donate to CANA

We rely on your generous donations to keep the campaign going. Here are the account details if you want to donate:

Coal Action Network
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