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Coal Action Network Aotearoa Newsletter October 2012

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If the New Zealand cricket team needs a new spinner to replace Daniel Vettori, they need look no further than mining industry lobby group Straterra. Perhaps because Solid Energy is in a tailspin and the mining industry has been coming under challenge all around the country in recent months, they have chosen to highlight a survey carried out, in somewhat mysterious circumstances, by Pauline Colmar, formerly of survey firm Colmar Brunton, which purports to show strong public support for mining.
 
However, on closer inspection, the survey was worded along these lines:
 
Survey company: Would you swim with sharks - if sharks didn’t bite?
Lots of respondents: Yes 
Survey customer press release: "Majority of New Zealanders say they love swimming with sharks"
(notice the lack of options here for a respondent to say "hang on, but sharks DO bite"). 
 
There’s more on that survey below. We have also more on Solid Energy’s troubles and their future plans; more on the forthcoming Powershift conference in December and 2013 Summer Festival in January; and the latest news on Denniston legal action.
 
Check out our international section that discusses the links between climate change and the horrific “Superstorm Sandy” in the US this week. Our thoughts are with the families of the people who died,  from the Caribbean to the US and Canada, and with those suffering in the devastation Sandy left in its wake. 
 
Editor’s Note: In February 2011, I took on the job of editing a monthly “Supporters’ Update” for the Coal Action Network Aotearoa. That first update had five items. The September 2012 CANA newsletter had fifteen items, including a number of sub-items. This is a reflection of the breadth, depth and growth of our campaigns, but it’s all getting a bit much for your frazzled editor. So I am taking a break from newsletter editing duties to focus on the other work I should be doing for CANA, but keep on running out of time to get around to!
 
Along with a change of editor, we’re also going to take another look at how we put together the newsletter, aiming to reduce both its length and the effort required to produce it while still bringing you up-to-date news about our campaigns and the coal industry’s manoeuvres.  Please take part in our upcoming survey. 
 
Regards
Tim Jones
Coal Action Network Aotearoa
 
 
1. Coming Events
2. More Spin Than Shane Warne
3. Got Something To Tell Us? Use Coal Tips
4. Summerfest 2013: Registrations Open 5 November
5. Powershift 2012
6. International News
7. TPPA Negotiations in Auckland, December 2012
8. Solid Energy: Still Not Getting It
9. Denniston Update
10. Top of the South Speaking Tour On Lignite
11. Regional Reports: Auckland, Wellington, Top of the South, Canterbury, Southland
12. CANA Social Media

13. Our Blog And Website
14. How To Donate To CANA

 
 
1. Coming Events
 
November
 
2: Closing date for submission on the Crown Minerals Act review – see this Forest & Bird submission guide at Greenpeace's draft submission.
3: Auckland Coal Action meeting, 11am start, shared lunch 12.30-1pm, meeting ends 4pm.  Quaker Meeting House, 113 Mt Eden Rd
12: Wellington Ka Nui network meeting, 7pm, 19 Tory St. Contact michelle@ducat.co.nz to confirm venue or for more information.

December
 
3-12: Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) negotiating session in Auckland. See http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/ for details of planned actions.
7-9: PowerShift 2012, Auckland. See http://powershift.org.nz/
8: National Day Of Action Against The TPPA. Keep an eye on http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/ for details.
 
January 2013
 
18-21: Summerfest 2013, Dolamore Park, near Gore
 
2. More Spin Than Shane Warne
 
Tim Jones writes:
 
I had recently had the dubious pleasure of attending a function at Straterra, the mining industry lobby group that is headquartered on the Terrace, conveniently near the Beehive for those Ministers who don’t like traveling too far from their natural habitat.
 
Cindy Baxter and I from CANA joined the mining magnates and government officials (surprisingly difficult to tell apart) at the event to hear Pauline Colmar, formerly of Colmar Brunton, discuss the research her firm carried out for Solid Energy.
 
Her headline message to the miners & their Ministry cheerleaders was that mining was much more popular in New Zealand than the industry thought, and that they should get out and celebrate the fact. But even the most cursory look at the figures she presented shows that the survey achieved its numbers by asking New Zealanders whether they would support coal mining if the environment could be protected, or if it didn’t lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
 
But here’s the problem: coal mining wrecks the environment and leads to more greenhouse gas emissions. And the survey figures show that New Zealanders don’t want either of those things. So, nice try, wannabe Shane Warnes of the mining industry. But your spin is well wide of the mark.
 
For more on this, see:
 
* CANA’s press release:
* Claire Browning’s column in the Otago Daily Times
* Summer Burstyn’s article on LiveNews, which provoked comments both from pollsters and from the person asked to fill in the survey who alerted us to the whole shebang in the first place:
* Beau Murrah’s piece on how he persuaded the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to take the Straterra press release about the poll down from their site.
 
3. Got Something To Tell Us? Use Coal Tips
 
coaltips@gmail.com
 
Since early 2012, we have been getting interesting tidbits of information from people inside the coal industry. They have tipped us off to health and safety problems which have substantially delayed the opening of Solid Energy’s pilot briquetting plant (see the Solid Energy item below for Solid’s take on this), and also given us some other useful information on Solid Energy’s future plans.
 
We know that there are a lot of disgruntled people in the coal industry right now, and with good reason. So our message to people inside the industry is this: even if we don’t agree on everything, we might agree that the coal industry and its leading players need to be made accountable to the public.
 
If you’d like to help us with this process, or if there is some information the coal industry is hiding that you think the rest of the country should know, then all you have to do is drop us an email to coaltips@gmail.com.
 
You don’t have to give your name or contact details, although of course it would help us if you did. We promise to keep your name confidential if that's what you want. You can send the message from any email address you like. And, if you’ve got a picture or a document to send us, gmail addresses can handle nice big attachments.
 
We think the coal industry is in trouble, and we think people inside the industry know it. This is your chance to share what you know.
 
4. Summerfest 2013: Registrations Open 5 November
 
In January, the Keep The Coal In The Hole Summer Festival, aka Summerfest, held on Mike Dumbar’s farm near Mataura, was a big success, not least because it led to the formation of a number of regional anti-coal action groups.
 
The Southland regional group Coal Action Murihiku (CAM) has taken on the job of organizing the 2013 Summerfest. This will be held from Friday 18-Monday 21 January 2013 at Dolamore Park, a beautiful native bush reserve near Gore, just outside the north-western boundary of Solid Energy’s landholdings in the Mataura Valley.
 
We will be putting the registration form for the 2013 Summerfest up on the website within the next few days. Please look on the site on Monday 5 November for updated information, including the registration form.
 
5. Powershift 2012
 
Generation Zero, 350.org and other groups are inviting young people (13-35) to attend the biggest youth climate summit ever held in New Zealand – and you can see all the details and register here. 

An important part of Powershift 2012 is its outreach to Pasifika youth. 350.org.nz Pacific Outreach Coordinator Koreti Tiumalu takes up the story:

Imagine a community of Pacific youth with the passion, skills and capacity to shape a safe climate future for New Zealand, and speak out for their home Pacific Island nations.
Over the last six months, we've started to make this vision a reality and have run “Pasefika Climate Change Jams” in Auckland and Wellington. Now as we build up to Power Shift NZ-Pacific, our goal is to get 100 young Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand to actively participate in the event. We will harness that energy, to then reach across NZ’s Pacific communities in 2013 and beyond.
It’s time Pacific people found themselves a seat at the table where these things are discussed and tackled - and I am excited to be a part of an organisation who has recognised the valuable contribution that Pacific people can bring to that table. We will bring colour, new ideas, new life and above all else, heart.
I’m really excited, and I’m also daunted by the work ahead. Doing all of this on top of a full-time job is a real challenge, but I’m committed to making it work, as this is just too important for it not to happen.
Your help can make a massive difference. Here’s some of the ways:

  • Do you have connections with the Pacific Island communities here in NZ that we can get in contact with? Let me know at koreti@350.org
  • Support the Pasefika Climate Change Jam fund - donate $20, $50 or $350 to enable us to keep reaching out to Pacific Island communities through events (or sign up as a regular giver).
  • Volunteer with our Pasefika team - we need all hands on deck to build the movement. If you are keen to help us out, just drop me an email to koreti@350.org

 
6. International News

Superstorm Sandy's links with climate change. 
Superstorm Hurricane Sandy has left eight US states in a state of emergency, with the death toll in the US climbing, and 39 killed in the Caribbean.  The superstorm shattered records in terms of depth of depression over the US and the storm surges, predicted to peak at 11 feet in New York, reached nearly 14 feet, causing billions in damage. It was a scary night for millions of people, and many of us in NZ were glued to the news as it unfolded, hoping friends and family were safe.  Unfortunately the forecasters got it right this time.  As we said above, our thoughts are with those who have suffered.

But how much of it was caused by climate change? While Sandy wasn't CAUSED by climate change, there are several things we do know about it:  that temperatures in the Atlantic were higher than normal.  Some scientists suspect that the weather system coming from the Arctic was caused by the melt. 
New York Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg have started making the links

Here's some links to more in-depth coverage of the issue. 
Close Up talked about it with Kiwi climate scientist Jim Salinger
Hurricane expert, scientist Kevin Trenberth, has a good summary here.  He talks about how all weather is now occurring against a background of a warming world. 
The co chair of the US National Climate Assessment Gary W Yohe talks about how this isn't the "new normal" - because the changes we're seeing haven't stopped yet. 
Joe Romm at Climate Progress 
Chris Mooney, science writer and author of "Storm World" on Mother Jones. 
The New Yorker: Watching Sandy, ignoring climate change  
You can find much, much more online, but we'll leave you with this fantastic video, using a "baseballer on steroids" analogy to explain how the background conditions can lead to extreme weather events. 

Calls to end the climate silence in the US elections
A growing chorus of NGO’s in the US have been calling for the election race to break their “climate silence” – it’s the first Presidential campaign in the US to NOT mention climate change since 1998. Why? Blame the massive increase in fossil fuel funding of the elections (to the tune of around US$150m), in particular a coal industry-led campaign against Obama’s so-called “war on coal” (never mind that it’s the gas/fracking industry driving down the demand for coal)   It’ll be interesting to see if this silence continues in the wake of Sandy’s wrath.
 
Australia confirms its Renewable Energy Target
The Australian Government’s newly formed Climate Change Authority has been reviewing the Renewable Energy Target – and has recommended keeping the target at the energy equivalent of at least 20% by 2020, shrugging off intense pressure from the fossil fuel industry. The final decision will be taken in December. 
 
True cost of CCS revealed 
Remember how Don Elder keeps telling us that we can reduce coal emissions to near zero?  Well that would be using CCS - carbon capture and storage - technology. Apparently.  If Don thinks he's got financial problems now, wait til he faces the cost of CCS.  Australia's full report on the issue was recovered through official information and it's not pretty. 
 
UN warns of food crisis
Meanwhile the UN warns of a looming food crisis in 2013 in the wake of record droughts and heatwaves leading to crop failure in the US and elsewhere.
 
7. TPPA Negotiations In Auckland, December 2012
 
A parasitic organism is on its way to Auckland in early December. It is designed to grow fat on its hosts and leaves them weakened and more vulnerable.
 
Sounds nasty? It is. It’s called the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, it is currently under negotiation by 11 countries chivvied along by the US Government, and, if adopted as it stands by the New Zealand Government, it would significantly weaken New Zealand’s sovereignty in a whole range of areas, including our ability to impose environmental standards on foreign-owned mining companies.
 
The TPPA negotiating circus is coming to Auckland in early December, and a coalition has been organised to protest against these undemocratic negotiations, with a national day of action planned for 8 December. For background on why the TPPA is such a bad thing, and news of planned events and actions, keep an eye on http://www.itsourfuture.org.nz/
 
 
8. Solid Energy Struggles To Commission Briquetting Plant, But Wants To Press Ahead With Lignite-To- Urea Plant
 
In the last couple of newsletters, we’ve reported on Solid Energy’s many misadventures. One that hasn’t been well reported in the news media is the delay in commissioning Solid Energy’s pilot lignite-to-briquettes plant in Southland.
 
As mentioned under “Coal Tips” above, we’ve heard from industry sources that serious health and safety issues have been uncovered during the construction of the plant, leading to substantial delays in commissioning it and raising fears for the health and safety of the six workers who will be employed at the plant. Of course, that’s not quite how Solid Energy put it in their recent Quarterly Report:
 
"Plant construction is essentially complete and the plant is working through initial commissioning procedures.  During this process some minor modifications have been required which will delay the timing of first saleable coal.  This is now expected late this calendar year.   At full production, the plant will produce approximately 90,000 tonnes per annum of briquettes."
 
However, this hasn’t stopped Solid wanting to press ahead with the next idea Don Elder scrawled on the back of a napkin, his dream of a lignite-to-urea plant:
 
"The CTF feasibility study to confirm the economic viability, including environmental and social acceptability, of a Southland-based coal to urea development is underway. This phase of the project includes identifying project partners and selecting our preferred development partner."
 
Since Ravensdown pulled out of the joint lignite-to-urea project, Solid Energy says it has been working to sign up a new partner but extensive enquiries have yielded no indication that anyone is interested. Using lignite to do what can be done more cheaply from gas doesn't sound like a winner even in Solid Energy’s terms. However, we are not taking anything for granted, and we’ll be taking a keen interest in where, if anywhere, Solid Energy goes with this.
 
Note: It’s still possible to make Official Information Act requests to Solid Energy, and here’s a site that makes it really easy to do so. If you have ever wanted to find out anything from or about Solid Energy, now is a good time to ask.
 
9. Denniston Update
 
Lynley Hargreaves reports:
 
The Denniston Court hearing began on Monday 29 October in Christchurch. Bathurst, the district and regional councils, West Coast Environment Network, Forest and Bird, and a brave individual called Terry Sumner will start presenting their arguments at 10am at the Environment Court on 99 Cambridge Terrace. This is open to the public.
 
Four weeks of hearing have been planned: 29 October-1 November and 5-9 November (Christchurch), 26-30 November (Greymouth) and 3-7 December (Christchurch again). Going along is a great way to get a working knowledge of the RMA and court system and you can contact wcent@riseup.net if you want more details about when particular issues will be heard.
 
The case is going ahead without climate change evidence, while that battle continues on a parallel course through the courts, but pest control, landscape, invertebrates, social impacts, and biodiversity offsets will all be argued.
 
Also, you can read this excellent letter by West Coaster Jane Orchard about the real reason for Bathurst’s troubles.
 
10. Top of the South Speaking Tour On Lignite
 
Rosemary Penwarden reports from Dunedin:
 
In 2011 I wrote ‘Just Lignite’, a small booklet about Solid Energy’s Southland lignite proposals published by the Anglican Church Social Justice Commission. 15,000 have been distributed around the country. Dr Anthony Dancer, Social Justice Commissioner, and I were invited to speak on the issue in mid-October in Nelson, Motueka and Takaka. We both really enjoyed speaking with a range of people and exploring this beautiful part of the country.
 
The issues we face are so big. The association with the Anglican Church brought in some who may have not considered the issues before and was really valuable. Face to face discussions are a big part of what’s needed for change to happen.
 
Thanks so much to Top of the South group ‘Renewables’ for your hospitality and the fantastic work done in organising the tour, the amazing media afterwards and the other work being done in your region. It was great to put faces to names from the lignite discussion group and make new friends in our work towards a coal free Aotearoa.
 
Media reports:

Southland Times:  Anti lignite campaign on road 
Motueka online: Lignite mining an 'international crime'
Scoop: Archdeacon speaks out against coal 

11. Regional reports: Auckland, Wellington, Top of the South, Canterbury and  Southland
 
Note: A quick way to find contacts of all the regional anti-coal action groups is on the website
 
Auckland: Auckland Coal Action
 
Jill Whitmore reports:
 
We identified in mid-August that the NZ Symphony Orchestra was advertising an upcoming concert tour of major centres as “The Solid Energy Tour”, sponsored by Solid Energy, and decided  to picket the Auckland performance and put our anti-coal message out to the public. We were concerned not to alienate concert-goers, and also to make it clear that we support the NZSO though we abhor their SE sponsorship. We explained this in a letter to the NZSO management before the event.
 
Most of us attended the picket, including a “Climate change elephant”, and gave out leaflets to people as they arrived. (Banner: “Love NZSO, but coal cooks the climate”.) We felt the actions (2 so far) were successful, good-natured, and well-targeted, and worth repeating at further concerts sponsored by SE. 
 
Fonterra intends to open a new (small) coal mine near Mangatangi, about an hour’s drive south of Auckland. The coal, which will be very cheap for them, is intended to power their dairy factories in the region. Four of our members attended a meeting which Fonterra hosted for local residents, mainly to gather information. We are seeking initially how we might persuade Fonterra to use wood waste instead of coal for drying their milk powder.
 
In a similar vein, ACA has decided as part of its coal-free Auckland campaign to try to persuade schools still using old coal-fired boilers, to switch to wood pellets/chips or electric.
 
Next Meeting, all welcome:  Saturday 3rd November, 11am start, shared lunch 12.30-1pm, meeting ends 4pm.  Quaker Meeting House, 113 Mt Eden Rd.
 
Auckland Coal Action was formed in July 2011 following the visit of Dr James Hansen. We recognise that coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels and that its ongoing use will lead to catastrophic climate change. We aim to achieve a coal-free Aotearoa by 2030, initially by opposing the expansion of coal mining. We do this work to play our part in sustaining a benign climate for us, our children and grandchildren.
 
Our website is at http://aucklandcoalaction.org/ and you can contact us at aucklandcoalaction@gmail.com
 
Wellington: “Keep the Coal in the Hole” Gatherings
 
Tim Jones reports:
 
Our most recent “Keep the Coal in the Hole” two-monthly gathering in Wellington was on 18 October. Dr Anne MacLennan of Ora Taiao gave us an excellent presentation on coal’s many risks to human health, covering both its local effects and the bigger global health risks of climate change brought on, in large part, by burning coal. We hope to be able to make this presentation available in electronic form soon.
 
We are currently considering whether to keep these separate two-monthly gatherings going, or bring them under the tent of the wider Ka Nui! network on resource extraction issues that is emerging in Wellington. The current gatherings strike a good balance between education and activism; on the other hand, it makes sense to bring together people working on closely related issues. We expect to make a decision on this after talking more with our friends in the Ka Nui! network.
 
Next Wellington Ka Nui network gathering: Monday 12 November, 7pm, 19 Tory St. Contact michelle@ducat.co.nz to confirm venue or for more information.
 
Top of the South: Clean Energy Future Action Group
 
The Clean Energy Future Action Group, based in Nelson, has set up a Kickstarter-style fundraising campaign for its latest campaign against coal mining. You can check out the campaign, and help it meet its fundraising goal here.
 
Canterbury: Canterbury Coal Action
 
Check out this press release from Canterbury Coal Action, “Court Process Deeply Flawed”:

Some key quotes: 

“In New Zealand we currently have a remarkable situation in that our premier piece of environmental legislation, the Resource Management Act, can only consider the effects OF climate change, but not the effects ON climate change.  So the court is not able to learn how every tonne of coal that might be extracted from Denniston will add to an already pressing problem of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
 
As such the court process this week is deeply flawed – it is only hearing part of the evidence. 
 
What happened to “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” ?
 
Would a murder trial proceed without the key witness?
 
Would a fraud trial proceed without the accountants?”
 
It’s well worth reading the whole release. You can contact Canterbury Coal Action at canterburycoalaction@gmail.com
 
Southland: Coal Action Murihiku (CAM)
 
In addition to work on Summerfest 2013, plenty of other things have been going on in Southland, as Jenny Campbell reports:
 
Coming up 18-21 January Summer Fest at beautiful native bush reserve Dolamore Park near Gore.
 
Guest speaker Rob McCreath from Queensland who has successfully fronted the ‘Friends of Felton’ will tell us a success story of how they saved their valley from mining and the establishment of a chemical plant there. Rob is keen to connect with local farmers who are being challenged by the possibility of fracking/coal seam gas exploration in Northern Southland. More speakers are being organised to fit in with our theme and as soon as these are confirmed we will enlighten you.
 
You can find out more about the Felton story here.
 
Help wanted: we are looking for a person with a passion for organising food for the Summer Fest camp - cooking on gas burners, in a tent…for 120 people - just a wee holiday chore maybe ?
 
CANA and CAM members are busy organising the programme so hope you are looking at making bookings to come south, make a holiday of it and explore our fabulous scenery and hospitality….
 
Further information and registrations. 
 
Briquette plant opening at Mataura: still no date set yet but latest talk from Solid Energy is end of the year. An action is still planned once we get the word.
 
CAM members went on Solid Energy’s October Newvale mine bus tour. Only one ran as the numbers weren’t as high as expected. CAM member John Purey- Cust reported that on the surface it was hard to see if they were keeping to their conditions - but of course they aren’t taking lignite to the briquetting plant in any quantity yet, so that will change the scale of their operation. We still need to be vigilant.
 
CAM information stalls were held at Invercargill’s Eco Spring festival 6 Oct and at Gore’s rhododendron festival on Sun 14 Oct. About 400 sign ups were recorded for the Asset Sales petition thanks to keen Green and Labour party members. A few CANA sign ups too.
 
An excellent front page item appeared in the Gore Ensign with two of our members featuring with local controversial artist Wayne’ Hill’s sculpture about possible fracking and coal seam gas exploration featuring in a paddock at the entrance to Riversdale, close to Gore.
Rangimarie,
Jenny Campbell
Co- convenor, CAM
 
12. Social Media Rivalry: Facebook Leads Narrowly
 
In the last month, CANA’s Twitter account has almost closed the gap on our Facebook group. At the time of writing, our Facebook group at
 has stalled at 687 members, while our Twitter account has 670 followers.
 
So, if you’re a Facebook fan, what do you do? You join the group yourself and invite your friends to join!
 
If you’re in the Twitter camp, then please follow @coalaction, RT our tweets, and encourage your Twitter followers to follow us too.
 
The race to 1000 is on!

 
14. Donate to CANA! 
 
We rely on your generous donations to keep the campaign going. Here are the account details if you want to donate:
 
Coal Action Network
Kiwibank
38 9011 0484435 00 
 
 
 CANA on TwitterWe are on Twitter, and we encourage you to follow us there and retweet our tweets (thanks to everyone who has been doing so!): https://twitter.com/#!/coalactionCANA on FacebookJoin our main facebook group 
Already a member? Please advertise it on your newsfeed and invite friends to join – and if you're not, go there and sign up! 
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