Press release

Monday 12 September 2011


Coal Action Network Aotearoa today echoed the Deputy Prime Minister’s claim that the beginning of construction on Solid Energy’s planned plant to convert lignite to briquettes in Southland was ‘very significant for New Zealand and hugely significant for Eastern Southland,’ but said that significance was due to the huge climate impacts lignite mining would have.

“Bill English is right that the lignite plant, and the larger plants Solid Energy wants to build in its wake, are very significant,” said Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Frances Mountier. “Unfortunately, he is completely wrong about what that significance is.”

“Developing lignite is very significant for New Zealand because of the massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions that will result from mining and ultimately burning the lignite, which is a low-quality, dirty brown coal,” Ms Mountier continued. “And it’s hugely significant to Eastern Southland because of the extensive damage which large-scale lignite mining would cause to air quality, living conditions, and the high-quality rivers and streams on which Southland depends.”

“Fortunately,” said Ms Mountier, “Bill English’s grandiose claims aren’t matched by the reality on the ground. The only thing Solid Energy has got permission to build at present is a comparatively small-scale pilot plant. Even Solid Energy are claiming it will only employ thirteen full-time staff when built.”

“While Bill English and Solid Energy’s Don Elder are busy patting each other on the back,” Frances Mountier concluded, “people all around the country are working to roll back the damage this Government is doing to New Zealand’s environment and our international reputation. Our advice to Bill English is: stop sniffing the lignite and try sniffing the air instead.”