Kia Ora Koutou,
Welcome to our May newsletter.
Here at CANA we have been talking a lot about “life beyond coal”, and what the alternatives are for coal mining communities in New Zealand. This was one of the main topics of discussion at a recent event hosted by Canterbury Coal Action – see below for a report on this wonderful evening. It is time that all New Zealanders became part of this conversation, as communities in the coal mining area of Appalachia are now doing. They are looking to Wales as a model, as the Welsh coalfields were mostly shut down in the 1980’s, so communities there have already faced the question of how to reinvent themselves as natural resources are depleted. Another great example is Kayenta, Arizona, where they are working to replace coal with green jobs. These overseas examples can provide ideas and inspiration for us here in Aotearoa as we work together to create our own future beyond coal.
To see this dream realised, we must keep challenging every new coal development. Hence a myriad of groups are collaborating to oppose Fonterra’s proposed mine at Mangatawhiri – more on that in this newsletter! Also this month Forest and Bird have announced that they will appeal the Environment Court’s decision on Bathurst’s proposal to mine the Denniston Plateau. Read on to be brought up to speed on this, thanks to Jeanette.
To get involved in any of these campaigns, or to get connected to a local coal action group in your area, do drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Please also let us know if you have any upcoming events you want us to list in the next newsletter – due in June.
1. Solid Energy
2. Denniston Update
3. Fonterra’s proposed mine at Mangatawhiri
4. Canterbury Coal Action event
5. Climate Denier in NZ
6. Bill McKibben’s “Do The Math” tour
7. International and science roundup
1. Solid Energy gets tough on the workers it still has left
Solid Energy is still up to its old tricks; that is, when times get tough – take it out on the workers! Many contractors have left Stockton. Shifts have changed. The old 10 hour shifts have been changed to 12 hours, and workers have had to adopt a 7 day on 7 day off shift. Half of those are nights, in various combinations. So a lot of workers have left because they can’t do the nights.
Management want to change the shifts again to 5 days on, 2 off – staggered, and again, half the ‘days’ have to be nights. This will eliminate the FIFO (fly in, fly out – or in Stockton’s case it is often drive in, drive out) workers who live out of the area – as it will not be worth going away for 2 days. Workers are being told that if they can commit to this they will be guaranteed six years of work.
It was not the workers’ fault that Solid Energy got into its financial mess, but workers were the first to get squeezed when times got tough. Threats of job losses at Stockton if they did not accept a shift change last year, while Don Elder was still earning his $1.3 million, have been borne out. Not only that, Solid Energy is using a strategy well known among unscrupulous employers – that is, using a change in conditions of employment to cut down staff numbers instead of going by the fair and equitable method of ‘management of change’.
2. Update on Denniston
The Environment Court has issued an interim decision granting consent for Bathurst (calling itself Buller Coal) to mine at Denniston, subject to stronger conditions. We don’t know what conditions it has in mind. Opponents are refusing to negotiate on conditions as there are no conditions that would make it OK to destroy this exceptional area of beauty and biodiversity, or to continue adding to climate change.
Meanwhile Forest & Bird have appealed to the High Court on a legal issue in the decision. The announcement led to Bathurst’s share value dropping to 27 cents. Bathurst shares slump after appeal news
Forest and Bird subsequently added a second appeal against this decision on separate grounds, causing a further drop in Bathurst’s share price: http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-release/denniston-plateau-appeal-heads-high-court
We are still waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on whether climate change can be taken into account when considering an application for resource consent for a mine. If the decision is favourable the Environment Court will have to reconvene and hear climate change evidence on the Denniston mine.
So there are several more steps to go before the company can mine, and before we put out a call for your physical support to stop this craziness. Meanwhile, the question for Bathurst’s shareholders is: how low are you willing to go?
3. Fonterra’s proposed mine at Mangatawhiri
Submissions closed just before Easter on this proposal for a 120,000 tonnes/year open cast mine on farmland right beside SH2 at Mangatawhiri south of Auckland. Vigorous work by Auckland Coal Action ensured the council officer receiving submissions was moved to describe them as “pouring in”. As well as many locals and Aucklanders, submissions were received from national bodies such as Greenpeace, Ora Taiao, CANA, ACA, Green Party, and also the local Dilworth School.
Some concerns are health effects of dust from coal mining; the liberal use of water to control it, depriving other users if there is a drought as at present; increased heavy traffic; noise from mining machinery; and effects on groundwater. The big one of course is climate change, and submissions have made that point, currently outside the scope of the hearing, in case the Supreme Court finds in our favour, that climate change is a legitimate issue to argue in coal mine consents.
Wood suppliers confirm that there is enough waste wood from forestry operations in the region to supply Fonterra’s three local dairy factories. You cannot just drop wood into a coal boiler but over time these boilers can be modified. We are asking for a planned transition from coal to wood, but Fonterra is heading the other way, having just rejected cost-effective wood as a fuel for their giant new factory at Darfield.
On Easter Monday thousands of returning holiday makers from Coromadel and Tauranga were made aware of the issue as they queued or crawled along the highway, by large banners hung over the overbridge and along the side of the road. We were greeted by constant toots and thumbs up of support, with relatively few expressing disapproval. For pictures and commentary see www.aucklandcoalaction.org
4. Canterbury Coal Action event
On Saturday 6th April, whilst the national organising group was in Christchurch, CANA and Canterbury Coal Action held an evening of networking and sharing campaign experiences with friends and supporters.
Jen Miller, Canterbury and West Coast Field Officer from Forest and Bird shared the good news that F&B were appealing the recent Environment Court decision on Denniston. http://www.forestandbird.org.nz/what-we-do/publications/media-release/more-court-action-ahead-in-bid-save-denniston-plateau
Eugenie Sage, local Green Party MP spoke about the proposed changes to the RMA. She pointed out that these changes would lead to a reduction in the opportunity for communities to have any say in future mining consent applications with an increased expectation in favour of development. http://www.greens.org.nz/rma.
Jeanette Fitzsimmons and Kristin Gillies spoke about CANA’s history and recent developments including the sudden demise of Solid Energy’s Southland lignite plans. CANA’s future plans were alluded to, including the need to prevent any new coal mining expansion, such as for powering dairy plants. The use of dirty coal certainly goes against the clean green image that our dairy industry likes to portray to overseas markets.
Rachel Eyre encouraged Canterbury CANA supporters to get active through Canterbury Coal Action and described the past year’s activities of the local group. The group has been involved in highlighting coal and climate change impacts at 350.org events, the Keep Our Assets march, the Frack Free Concert and the Bimblebox Film evening. Check out our blog at: http://canterburycoalaction.blogspot.co.nz/ and our new Facebook page.
The evening concluded with local CANA supporters and members of the Canterbury and the national organising group of CANA sharing experiences and relaxing over a glass of wine and roasted chestnuts.
Thanks to all for making the evening such a success.
Canterbury Coal Action
5. Climate Denier in NZ
Many of you will have noticed climate science denier Lord Christopher Monckton’s tour of NZ. He has been promoted by Federated Farmers, by the Otago Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations who are still basking in the false sense of conviction that climate change isn’t real and, if it is, we’re not causing it. (Federated Farmers at a national level subsequently distanced themselves from the Monckton visit, but they sponsored him in Marlborough. See http://www.fedfarm.org.nz/publications/media-releases/article.asp?id=637)
One of the best interviews of Monckton was by Michele Hewitson at the NZ Herald, whom he walked out on. Gareth Renowden of Hot Topic followed him closely and called him out regularly on his made-up science. There’s also been some quite hilarious outings by the Flat Earth Society who have been reaching out to Monckton to join forces (apparently they both believe there’s a global scientific and governmental conspiracy and think that joining forces would be good for all). If you’re on Facebook, follow their exploits here.
Monckton has bullied his way right down the country, threatening newspapers, scientists, universities, and pretty much anybody who dared to question his utter lack of climate science qualifications and ridiculous theories on how, for example, Agenda 21 will lead to “UN-run concentration camps.” The extraordinary thing is that so many media have taken him seriously.
6. Bill McKibben’s “Do the Maths” tour.
350.org founder and writer Bill McKibben will be in NZ in June for his “Do The Maths” tour. Watch the trailer for his upcoming film of his recent tour of the US, due out May 14. The “maths” McKibben’s talking about is the amount of carbon dioxide we can afford to put into the atmosphere, compared with the amount of reserves held by big oil and coal companies. They don’t add up. McKibben’s a fantastic speaker and it’ll be a great evening. For background reading, check out his piece in Rolling Stone. Bill McKibben will speak in Auckland on 11 June, Dunedin 12 June (venue TBC) and Wellington on 13June. Tickets here. Coal Action Network will have a stall at all the events, so make sure you say come and say hi – and get your friends to sign up.
7.International and science roundup
Unburnable Carbon: London’s Carbon Tracker Initiative bases its calculations on the same “Maths” that McKibben’s talking about. Its new report, out last month, reveals that fossil fuel reserves already far exceed the carbon budget to avoid global warming of 2°C, but in spite of this, spent $674 billion last year to find and develop new potentially stranded assets. Read more here. The Carbon Tracker then went on to look specifically at the carbon assets contained in Australian coal. The reserves held by Australian coal companies alone are equivalent to 25 per cent of the global carbon budget for coal to 2050.
Global Temps warmest in 1400 years: A groundbreaking new study published in Nature Geoscience shows that global temperatures between 1970 and 2000 were the warmest in 1,400 years. This timing correlates directly with a spike in carbon emissions since the 70’s and broadly confirms findings repeatedly reported by an overwhelming majority of climate scientists for the last 30 years: climate change is happening, it is human caused and without action to address it billions will fall victim to it.
C02 levels about to reach scary milestone All eyes are on the atmospheric C02 measuring station at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, the station that is widely accepted as measuring the most accurate levels of C02 in the atmosphere. C02 levels are about to reach an average of 400ppm, the highest levels of C02 in the atmosphere since the Pliocene period, between 3.2 million and 5 million years ago. Given that even 350ppm cannot be guaranteed to be “safe” and save us from climate change, this is an ominous milestone we’re about to reach. Read about it in The Guardian, Inside Climate News and a great blog in Carbon Brief on what scientists think about it.
New Climate Science: There are so many studies coming out confirming climate change and its fast approach, that Skeptical Science wrote a piece summing up three of them in the one hit.
Eminent climate scientist Dr James Hansen has retired from his job at NASA to work on climate activism full time. This is a great interview in Rolling Stone magazine.
Finally… Good news IS possible: This tiny community in Australia won its fight against Rio Tinto to stop the expansion of a mining project.