Jeanette at the CANA gathering in Ashburton, 2017 Photo: Shannon Gilmore

Kia ora koutou

What a strange world we find ourselves in. We are SO lucky to be in Aotearoa, in our lockdown. We hope you are all safe and well in your bubbles, and we especially applaud all of you who are health workers on the frontlines of this crisis.It’s a tough time for campaigners right now, and we’re hoping our government makes the right decisions around spending money that will make for a better, safer climate at the other end of this crisis.

We were disturbed at the story of the two days the coal industry and Fonterra spent lobbying the government so that coal could be considered an “essential service” to supply the dairy factories, but relieved to hear that at least coal exports have been stopped.

What would Jeanette have made of all of this? It was only a few weeks ago that we all learned of her death. A lot has happened in that time. We know she out of anyone would have been able to survive way longer than most of the rest of us without having to go NEAR a supermarket.  We’ve all finally had some time to put this CANA newsletter together – and we thought we should dedicate this whole newsletter to farewelling Jeanette, one of our founding and most beloved members. Not least because her memorial has had to be postponed until after lockdown.

Jeanette’s influence, intelligence and integrity underscored all of the work she did. Her dedication and steadfast resolve to care for the planet shaped her life, but they shaped our lives as well.  She was tireless and passionate.  She was a genuine taonga, and we will miss her fiercely.

A couple of weeks ago Cindy Baxter posted this blog in an attempt to set out a little bit history of Jeanette, the coal campaigner – the work she did after she retired from Parliament and formed Coal Action Network Aotearoa, which in turn came out of the Save Happy Valley campaign.  There, you will also find a collection of photos of Jeanette taking action on coal over the years.

Below, the rest of the CANA team have contributed their own words about Jeanette.

Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane.

Cindy, Jenny, Rob, Rosemary, Tim, Torfrida and Zella.

1. Tim Jones: What You Leave Behind


Ehara i te tii e wana ake.
It is not like the ever-renewed shoots of the cabbage tree .

Death is final & irrevocable. The tii or cabbage tree is hard to kill, because new shoots spring from apparently dead branches.

What You Leave Behind

The final movement of the last quartet
stumbles to an end. The players
raise their bows from the strings,
stand, incline their heads,

And wait as the silence stretches on.
The hall is empty. Only microphones
connect them with the world. Where
are you, where have you gone?

Gone from the valley, gone from the hill.
Gone your prodigious memory, your mind.
You were not a kind person, you told me once.
But your forte was kindness in action.

You planted a thousand thousand seeds.
Stony ground devoured some. Others
were taken by drought, swept away
by sudden flood and rising sea.

Yet hundreds still grow, seedlings
sheltered so long by the mighty parent tree
now spiraling upwards in the clearing
made by your fall from the canopy.

Silence in the hall, silence on the Hill.
The air lies thick and curdled.
In our lungs and in our bones
we feel the cost of consequences rise.

All voices end. Yours lives on
in wisdom, friendship, in example.
Be kind. Speak clearly. Be unafraid.
Block the gates of power and greed.

The players leave. The music hides
between the pages of the score.
Alone on stage, one music stand,
one violin, one bow, one empty chair.

2. Rosemary Penwarden:  the Activist 
It was 2011. Jeanette was telling a full Dunedin lecture theatre about Solid Energy’s plans to mine the Mataura Valley. At the end of her talk she said “This is what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.” I felt a physical jolt. My future was decided too, then and there.

Since then, until now, along with a small band of wonderful people from around the country, along with a thousand other things, Jeanette spent the rest of her life helping facilitate a fair transition away from coal mining in Aotearoa.

“How can we end coal without an alternative?” Jeanette asked on one of our calls. CANA’s 2014 report Jobs After Coal was born. She and I took it to the 2014 Australian Beyond Coal and Gas conference and found Australian activists mired in battle with an industry nowhere near considering the end of coal. We were ahead with our report but awed by their campaign networks. We came home with a renewed commitment to help organise our small NZ climate movement into a force as coherent and strong as our friends’ across the ditch.

Jeanette never stopped trying to bring us together.

Jeanette was like my older sister activist, encouraging me to get brave. Like an older sister the two of us did not always agree but that never got in the way of our work. She did what she said she’d do. She spoke her mind. She listened. She considered.

She partnered me at my first ever terrifying NVDA training session at the 2012 Keep the Coal in the Hole festival in Mataura. She encouraged me to write the Anglican church booklet “Just Lignite”. We travelled from Hokitika to Westport talking to Mayors, iwi and media, then went together to Mayday in Blackball to present Jobs After Coal. With others we nutted out the wording for ‘Our Climate Declaration’ and locked ourselves on to the Clandeyboye coal gate.

Jeanette wanted to be arrested but never was. Jeanette, I hereby dedicate my next arrest to you.

Jeanette at the Dunedin Coal Conference protests, 2019

4.  Rob Taylor:  Farewell, Jeanette

“She will always carry on –
something is lost,
but something is found.
They will keep on speaking her name –
some things change,
some stay the same…”

At Jeanette’s wake, on a cloudless summer’s day of shared shock and solace, Chrissie Hynde’s “Hymn to Her” rang out over the Kauaeranga Valley, in tribute to a life lived in full.

I first knew Jeanette through her work on energy policy when I was at the Ministry of Energy and ECO, and finally met her in Auckland in 1982. That must have been a difficult time as her first marriage was ending, yet she was always gracious and generous with her time and ideas.

I remember her questioning the hydrogen economy in the 80’s; often, she seemed like a visitor from the future, back in our time to lead and inspire us with characteristic intelligence, integrity and wit.

One of many special things about Jeanette was her freedom from ego and insecurity; whilst she was fiercely determined, and formidable when the occasion demanded, she always led from the front, by action and example.

It was my good fortune to work alongside her in two of the groups she founded in her “retirement”, and a delight to spend a little time with her and Harry at Pakaraka, where they had built a full-spectrum, integrated life together.

Farewell, Jeanette, you were touched by greatness, and you will so be missed.

“Keep beckoning to me,
from behind that closed door.
The maid and the mother
and the crone that’s grown old.
 I hear your voice,
coming out of that hole.
I listen to you,
and I want some more.
I listen to you
and I want some more.”

5. Zella Downing: the Trailblazer

Jeanette’s mind, reach and influence were as auspicious as the mountain ranges surrounding my home here in Hawea.  Her ideas manifested themselves into national movements.  Her profound depth of knowledge allowed her to debate the most complex issues facing the world today, which she did it with the same humility used to explain the making of feta cheese.  I still chuckle at a comment Cindy made when we were at the Studholme hearing: “I drove while Jeanette downloaded Christian’s brain.”

Jeanette was simply ahead of her time, and it has literally taken decades for the general public to catch up; I think that frustrated the hell out of her.  There were times when her calm was rippled by thoughts of, “Why isn’t anybody doing anything about it?!”  And then she would do something about it.

Did Jeanette know that the only reason some people were able to arrive at a place of understanding was because she’d forged a trail there?  A woman of her ability wouldn’t have seen her own intellectual reasoning as anything more than an lovely walk in the bush, whereas I saw a daunting march into unfamiliar, inhospitable terrain.  She was a natural leader – so very easy to follow.

“When an ordinary woman attains knowledge, she is a sage; 
when a sage attains understanding, she is an ordinary woman.”
– Zen Proverb

6. Mel Vautier: the Influential Where to begin? I’ve delayed writing this as long as I can – I can write irony and jokes and
outrage and whimsy till the cows come home; but writing this means facing feelings I still
haven’t really processed. In all the madness of everyday life (madder by the day) I still
haven’t really truly processed the fact that Jeanette isn’t here anymore.

My main reaction has been of amazement and appreciation for all the beautiful tributes
that poured out of all corners on the day of the news; from so many amazing people who
said Jeanette had inspired and mentored them. I knew her reach was big, but I never
realised quite how big until she wasn’t there.

Focussing on that element allows an easy way to avoid dealing with the actual loss. It
doesn’t make it any less true, but at some point we do have to deal with the actual loss, too.
And that will be stark every time we don’t know the answer to something, every time we’re
not sure what to do, every time there’s some corner of knowledge no one else has thought
about, we will feel that silence.

The length and breadth of her wisdom and skills were seemingly infinite. Her name pops up
in all the most unlikely of places, sharing a smorgasbord of well-researched, articulate,
thoughtful arguments; always far ahead of public sentiment. I feel incredibly grateful to
have been proximal to her through CANA and soak up everything I could from watching her
just being her.

There was a lot she was frustrated she couldn’t accomplish, but it’s far from over- she still
continues to have an influence, through her influence over so many of us. I know I am just
one tiny part in an enormous, unfathomably far-reaching legacy she left behind. And we will
carry on her work, infinitely richer to have shared a tiny chunk of space and time with her.

7. Jenny Campbell: CANA continues 
in consultation with other Coal Action Murihiku – CAM – members.

How could it be that here I was on an organising committee with Jeanette, a person I had admired and honoured from afar over many years? I am working with this green kuia, a taonga and inspirational leader- being challenged, encouraged, enthused, stimulated, thanked, valued and involved. Tumeke!

This all came about after I got involved in helping out at the visit by James Hansen to Aotearoa and Gore in particular, in May 2011. Solid Energy  was planning to set up a briquette plant on the corner of SH 1 and Craig Rd, just south of Mataura. Craig Rd farmer, Mike Dumbar, had refused to sell to SE and Jeanette knew of Mike and his tenacity.

A CANA summer camp under canvas on Mike’s farm in January 2012 seemed like a great plan to educate locals of the dangers associated with Solid’s madcap scheme which would involve digging up the very fertile Mataura Valley soils to get to the lignite  underneath. Our aim was ultimately to stop it.

Jeanette, supported by her husband Harry Parke, threw her energy in to organising the Summer Fest. There were many Skype calls (often with people dropping off with lost connections – her patience a virtue) with her experience of organising these kind of events very evident.

No stone was left unturned by her to ensure it was a success. Her attention to detail, encouragement and lots of good ideas offered to each of the sub -teams  eg logistics, catering, accommodation, travel, camp and public community programmes, advertising… saw about 200 people come from all over Aotearoa to camp, participate, contribute and learn. Composting toilets, vegetarian food, pooling transport or using public transport and buying local produce all modelled how to reduce our carbon emissions- her philosophy. Julie Ann Genter biked from her home In  Nelson as one example!

Her international informal networks brought farmers affected by mining on their property, Sid and Merrilyn Plant from Acland,  Queensland Australia as our guest speakers, giving credibility to the message we were trying to deliver to Southland famers about the impact of the proposed briquette plant on their businesses. Our weekend programme was full of music, laughter, banner creations, workshops  covering a wide range of topics such as NVDA, dealing with the media, self-care when involved in protests,  all having leaders who Jeanette knew and respected from the protest movement and she encouraged to come.

The Sunday saw a full day in Mataura’s Community Centre for the Southland public with guest Sid Plant telling how it is to  be a farmer overtaken by the coal mining industry. Experts on such topics as health, water and soil  told of impacts from coal mining while a  panel  answered questions and group discussions enabled people to exchange their experiences. All this planning and programme setting was overseen and planned by Jeanette, with her vision being accomplished of informing locals and those from further afield of what the intended plans for their Mataura valley would actually mean.

She negotiated with some people who provided challenges- I was one of those!  Defusing possible tough situations saw her diplomacy win through, being very focused on what was to happen, why and by whom. She was very respectful of everyone, a wonderful listener, unassuming, calm and consultative, but very determined with a strong keynote message which was hard to argue with.

Jeanette respected local people’s wish not to have a protest action at the briquette plant on Monday morning because the local Mataura community was expecting trouble and was very anxious. Security firm Thompson and Clark had been patrolling and spying on the venue all weekend, even ensuring the marquees kindly donated by BNZ and Meridian Energy for our use had their head offices request they be taken down. Just as well they could be replaced from local firms because the weather was atrocious on Saturday evening with it turning very cold with pouring rain and even hail showers, leaving us wet and bedraggled. Actually it was agreed later that a full night’s sleep and no protest action sent an even stronger message to Southland and the wider community, so building trust and credibility in our message.

Jeanette’s winning smile, gentle chuckle and persuasive talk helped empower locals who were resisting Solid’s plans. She built relationships and opened eyes to the plans in a Southland area with a philosophy of being strong right wing.

A local group arose out of this weekend, Coal Action Murihiku (CAM) which with the encouragement and blessing of Jeanette went on to undertake many awareness raising actions, educational opportunities  and fun events to keep the pressure on SE.

Another summer fest was held under canvas in January 2012 at Gore’s Dolamore Park with a similar programme and about 100 attending. Guest farmers, Rob and Sally McGrath from Felton in Queensland, Australia  brought more credibility and focused on the potential of being a food bowl rather than an industrial zone. James Cumming Wing in Gore saw another line-up of influential speakers alongside Rob, including an environmental lawyer, health and climate change experts and landowners’ rights presenting to a full hall.

By then the writing was on the wall that things were not going so well for Solid Energy and the rest is history. $32 million plant on the corner of SH 1 and Craig Rd stands testament to another ‘think big’ scheme which had no substance.

We honour Jeanette and her energy, wisdom  and foresight in raising awareness of the futility of such a scheme, with ultimately its demise.

8. Torfrida Wainwright: her spirit lives on in all of us 

Jeanette was unsentimental.  Under that calmness she had a driving impatience for people to make the big changes that both humans and the earth desperately need right now.  Somehow it doesn’t feel like she’s gone all that far away, her spirit has indeed been ‘emptied into us to keep’ and I can imagine how pissed she’d be if we don’t keep it alive and driving forward!

What would Jeanette have thought about Covid19?  Would she have seen ways in which our current emergency situation provided opportunities to address the climate and ecological crisis?   Oh, we will need to stretch ourselves to match the way she strode forward, the way she understood how society fitted together.  But we have no other option than to try, if we want to honour her.

And so grief morphs into action…

Then she was dead,
The searching for a pulsebeat was abandoned
And we all knew one thing by being there.
The space we stood around had been emptied
Into us to keep, it penetrated
Clearances that suddenly stood open.

–  from Clearances by Seamus Heaney