By Melanie Vautier
On Sunday the CANA organising group, along with many other wonderful people, had a great day protesting a coal mine near Huntly.
Firstly: What is this coal mine?
It is a recently reopened mine, with the purpose of getting coal for Fonterra to evaporate milk to send to China and pretend its better for Chinese babies than breast milk. While Fonterra recently has been applauded for not renewing their permit for the Mangatangi coal mine, they have instead just restarted this less visible one. Sneaky sneaky!
Secondly: Why Sunday?
The New Zealand and Australia Minerals conference was being held in Tauranga this week, and the weekend included some optional field trips to visit the surrounding gold and coal mines. Conferences, as we all know, are best spent eating lots of free food and trying to meet influential people in your field so you can name drop them on later occasions. These conference-goers spent their weekend looking at blights they’ve made on lovely landscapes and getting yelled at about it at every single one they tried to go to.
Thirdly: What happened?
The CANA team spent a pleasant morning eating scones at a lovely nearby cafe, waiting for the call to head out. Once it came we raced off to the mine, and, along with others from Auckland Coal Action, Peace Action and 350.org, set ourselves up with a multitude of banners.
The conference-goers arrived shortly after, drove up to the gate, stopped for a while to figure out what to do, then turned around. There was another entry!
We followed them over and, while they were doing whatever they were doing in the coal mine, spent a pleasant afternoon chanting at them through megaphones. One couple with a camper van had ingeniously rigged it up as a giant speaker, which echoed all down the valley (the residents of the house they parked in the driveway of were reportedly quite excited at the goings-on in their quiet rural road). Interspersed with the eloquent heartfelt speeches of the protesters, there boomed out vivid pre-recordings of an angry mob and a siren followed by a brilliantly serious “evacuate…evacuate…this is a climate emergency.”
When eventually the coal viewers tried to leave, they came driving out in their mostly single occupancy cars like good little fossil fuel proponents.
They moved very slowly due to the enthusiastic blockades by protesters further up the road, so I got chatting to the last guy out who was quick to make clear that he was “just there to have a look” and didn’t disagree with what we were saying. He reportedly was very into tree planting and ocean cleanups. His eagerness to not be associated with being ‘one of them,’ (and the very miserable faces of the rest), pleased me enormously.
Perhaps, at last, fossil fuels are negatively received.
Perhaps at last the winds are changing, after the recent reports of just how long Mobil and Shell knew about climate change; with wider public realisation of the lies they paid for; of fossil fuel companies’ intensive lobbying to governments to perpetuate a reliance on them.
Perhaps, at last, fossil fuels are losing their social license.
Fourthly: And then what happened?
The coal people left and we regrouped to have a spontaneous picnic. The police arrived and wandered over, saying (with no hint of believing it for a moment) they’d received reports of protesters throwing rocks. We offered them some cake and a hard-boiled egg, which they politely declined and went away and loitered in the corner while we finished making new friends and swapping cakes, and then we all drove off home after a very enjoyable protest.