Kia ora koutou,

2011 is shaping up as a very big year for the campaign against mining Southland lignite. Solid Energy has announced plans for its pilot lignite briquetting plant in Southland, the first stage of its massive plans to exploit Southland’s lignite reserves. And a wide range of local and national groups are gearing up to stop them.

Before we get onto the latest developments, here are two important messages:

A) The Coal Action Network email list

The campaign against the expansion of coal mining in Aotearoa New Zealand is growing. But it needs to grow a lot more. We think there are a lot of people out there who are concerned about this issue, or who would be if they knew about it, and who will want to get involved in this campaign.

If you are not on our email list, and would like to be, please send names and email addresses to,

The mailing list has been used mainly for announcements and updates from the Coal Action Network. But that’s not all it has to be used for. Anyone on the list can post news, discussion points, or requests for help and information.

And now for the news…

1) Coal Action Network Public Meetings Announced

The Coal Action Network is going public with a series of meetings explaining why the mining of Southland lignite is such a disastrously bad idea, and encouraging people to join our supporters’ list and get active in the campaign. Jeanette Fitzsimons, climate change campaigner and former co-leader of the Green Party, will be the featured speaker at the meetings. So far, the details of the Wellington meeting are confirmed:

Wellington Meeting

Keep The Coal In The Hole: Why Southland Lignite Shouldn’t Be Mined
When: Wednesday 16 February
Where: St John’s Church Hall, cnr Willis and Dixon Streets, Wellington
Time: 7pm-9pm
Web page:

There will also be meetings in Christchurch, Dunedin and Auckland. Please note that the partial details given below are all still to be confirmed. We will let you know the confirmed details.

Christchurch Meeting

Date: 19 April, evening meeting

Dunedin Meeting (details tbc)

Date: 20 April, evening meeting
2) A Meeting on Lignite in Southland

We were not involved in organising this meeting, but we are happy to include the notice from the Transition Towns website:

Venue: Invercargill Environment Centre, SIT Arcade, 46 Esk Street, Invercargill

Start: 14 Feb 2011 15:30
End: 14 Feb 2011 17:00

Join Dr Susan Krumdieck and others for an informal discussion about
lignite issues in Southland.

Dr Susan Krumdieck is the Associate Professor of Mechanical
Engineering at the University of Canterbury and National President of
Engineers for Social Responsibility. She has been studying climate
change and future energy supply issues for more than 25 years.

3) Solid Energy Spills The Beans

Solid Energy has always been prone to PR slip-ups, and it appears that its recent announcement of its preferred site for its pilot lignite-to-briquettes plant in Southland may have been a case of a Solid Energy spokesperson saying more than he was supposed to, rather than deliberate strategy.

In any case, the cat is out of the bag: as reported by the Southland Times, “Solid Energy plans to build its pilot briquetting plant south of Mataura, at the site of its former mine in Craig Rd, but a large commercial plant, if it went ahead, would probably be in the Croydon area, near Gore.” – see

Solid Energy also announced that it would be proceeding with resource consent applications soon – the proposed site for the pilot plant will face less consenting requirements than the other possible sites.

This pilot briquetting plant is the thin end of the wedge. Solid Energy want to get their first lignite conversion plant up and running as soon as possible, so that it is harder to stop subsequent, larger, dirtier developments. This plant has to be stopped, and we expect it to face intensive opposition – see subsequent updates for more on how you can help with that.

Here is Scoop’s coverage of the Coal Action Network’s statement in response to the announcement:

Here is Greenpeace’s response to the announcement:—/

4) Lower Mataura Landcare Lignite Backgrounder: Getting A Copy

As the first Southland Times article linked above makes clear, there is strong local opposition to the project, notably from the Lower Mataura Landcare group.

Lower Mataura Landcare (LMLC)  has prepared a comprehensive backgrounder on the Southland lignite. It’s particularly revealing on the local environmental effects in Southland, which haven’t yet received much coverage in the national media.

At 1.3MB, the LMLC backgrounder is too large to circulate on this list. If you’d like a copy, please email and I’ll send you one as a PDF file. It will also be posted to this site shortly.

5) They’re Blue-Green, Just Like Algae

While the Government presses ahead with its plans for massive carbon emissions on one hand, it is still trying to preserve the fiction that it has some environmental credibility on the other. National’s environmental fig-leaf is called the BlueGreens, and the Government used the recent BlueGreens conference to make announcements about marine reserves, a clean technology working party, and other green-sounding things. But Greenpeace has pointed out the absurdity of the Government’s green pretensions when juxtaposed with its coal-mining and oil-drilling plans:

“At the heart of the Government’s thinking is an hypocrisy that undermines climate action. The Government talk about a clean economy, yet they invest millions in subsidising the fossil fuel industries of yesteryear. It  backs moves to dig up six billions tonnes of the dirtiest form of energy in Southland – which would amount to a climate crime of global significance – and have just declared open season on BP-style deepwater oil drilling in some of our most pristine environments.”

The Government is going to have to try a great deal harder than that to be taken seriously on climate change policy. Ending all plans to mine Southland lignite would be a good start. You might want to remind your nearest National MP of that.

Till next time,

Tim Jones
for the Coal Action Network