Press Release
Sunday 22 January 2012

A coal company has all but destroyed the community of Acland, Queensland, where Australian seed and grain farmer Sid Plant lives, he told the community of Mataura, Southland, today at the “Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival” open day.

Around 300 people are attending today’s open day at the Mataura Community Centre. Locals have joined the 150 scientists, members of NGOs, MPs, farmers and concerned citizens from across New Zealand who have been camping since Friday, discussing Solid Energy’s plans to develop dirty lignite coal, which would increase our greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. They’re camping on the land of one farmer who refuses to sell to Solid Energy, Mike Dumbar.

Mr Plant’s 1200 ha farm in southern Queensland (near Toowoomba) borders the four million tonne New Hope coal mine that will later expand to ten million tonnes. He has watched as neighbour after neighbour has been bought up by New Hope.

“The mining companies all say ‘we will make it better than it was’ but they destroy the land – it can never be rehabilitated. I’ve witnessed the desecration of the best quality farmland where I live – just as Solid Energy is about to do in Southland. You can never get it back,” Mr Plant told the meeting.

Also speaking at the Open Day was orthopaedic surgeon Russell Tregonning, on behalf of Ora Taiao, a group of more than 140 senior doctors and other NZ health professionals gravely concerned about the impacts of climate change as a leading global health threat this century (according to the World Health Organisation).

“The threat from climate change supersedes the threat of cardiovascular disease, cancer, AIDS/HIV, the diabetes epidemic – all combined,” he told the meeting.
Dr Tregonning also outlined the threats to the local community from a range of pollutants that would be emitted from Solid Energy’s operations in Southland.

“Coal pollutants affect all major body organ systems and contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the US: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases,” he warned.

Antarctic geologist Dr Peter Barratt outlined concerns about climate change.

“Changes to the climate have already begun. As an Antarctic scientist, it troubles me that the ice sheet has already begun to melt – when I traveled there 40 years ago that idea was inconceivable. If we keep on burning fossil fuels the way we are now, by the end of the century there will be as much CO2 in the atmosphere as 40-50 million years ago when average global temperatures were many degrees warmer than they are today.”

Dr Shannon Page, a lecturer at Lincoln University’s Environmental Management department, warned against assurances that the emissions from lignite can be taken care of by Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

“CCS is an experimental technology, but even in the best case, it could only reduce emissions from some of the process of coal use – not the extraction nor the end use of briquettes. It is highly unlikely that there would ever be somewhere to bury CO2 in Southland,” he said.

Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokesperson Kristin Gillies was “delighted” with the turnout both at today’s meeting, and with the festival.

“The whole of New Zealand should be extremely worried about Solid Energy’s plans for lignite exploitation in Southland. As a result of this festival we now have a national campaign determined to oppose this company, every step of the way.”


Twitter hashtag for festival: #coalinhole

Coal Action Network Aotearoa Spokespeople:
Tim Jones 027 359 0293 and
Kristin Gillies 021 065 8460

Media contact: Cindy Baxter 021 772 661