MAC: Mines and Communities

Solid evidence - in a digestible form

Published by MAC on 2007-03-02

Solid evidence - in a digestible form

2nd March 2007

Last year we published a long account of the growing struggle against Aoteraroa/New Zeland's biggest coal mining outfit. Confronting "Solid Energy" was an equally solid coalition of local people, mineworkers and environmentalists, which had set about vigorously critiquing the company's expansion plans.

[See: "Black Day for New Zealand Biodiversity: Minister Approves State-sponsored Extinction" 12th April 2006 ]

Last week the Save Happy Valley Coalition published an alternative environmental report on Solid Energy which is arguably a minor masterpiece in its use of satire (backed by pretty solid evidence) against an apparently immoveable object.

Certainly the report woke up the state-owned company which immediately launched a High Court action seeking an injunction against circulation of the report. This has so far been denied ,but the company is now considering going for a full court hearing.

The report can be downloaded at:

(In the event of a successful injunction being obtained by Solid Energy against further distribution of the report in New Zealand, MAC will no doubt make it available on our site).

Mining firm over-reacting to satire, say protesters

Jarrod Booker, The New NZ Herald

2nd March 2007

Mining company Solid Energy has been accused of badly over-reacting by going to court over a "satirical" document produced in its name. But the state-owned company says the "2006 Environmental Report" created by anti-mining protesters brings its name into disrepute and is no joke.

The Save Happy Valley Coalition of protesters, which has long been at odds with Solid Energy over its mining activities, used Solid Energy's company logo on the cover of the 12-page mock report. Inside it, the protesters lambast the company for its activities and impacts on the environment.

Solid Energy responded by launching proceedings in the High Court at Christchurch claiming the document was defamatory. It was seeking an injunction, but was yesterday refused by a judge in a telephone conference. The company is now deciding whether to argue for it in a full court hearing.

Coalition spokeswoman Frances Mountier said the report had been sent to all media outlets and its supporters, but "it is pretty obviously a joke".

"Although the [environmental] issues behind it are not a joke."

Ms Mountier said the coalition was surprised at how the company had "over-reacted" and would not remove the document from its website.

Solid Energy spokeswoman Vicki Blyth said the coalition was being disingenuous when it called the document a joke. After a string of "stunts" by the protesters to get attention, the company was fed up.

"The frustrating thing for us is that we can take criticism but not when its blind criticism that won't acknowledge what [positive things] we are doing and that's where we feel particularly aggrieved."

Last year, Ms Mountier and fellow protester Daniel Rae were found guilty of trespass and ordered to pay reparations of just over $2000 after blocking coal trains in protest again Solid Energy. The coalition has been occupying a proposed West Coast coal mining site known as Happy Valley, 20km northeast of Westport, for over a year.

The protesters have also recently moved into the nearby area of Mt Augustus, where Solid Energy is blasting away land that was the habitat of a rare giant snail. The company was controversially granted permission by the Government to shift the snails from their habitat. Protesters claimed they were within a blasting safety zone when dynamite was being used.

Ms Blyth said the company was following all safety rules. The protesters were making the choice to put themselves into dangerous situations.

Wellington activists target Conservation Minister

Press Release: Save Happy Valley Coalition

26th February 2007

Dressed as kiwi, kakariki & geckos, activists from Save Happy Valley Coalition (SHVC) Wellington targeted Conservation Minister Chris Carter as he visited the Department of Conservation (DoC)'s new offices on Manners Street this afternoon.

Activists portrayed the Conservation Minister setting off a mock coal mining blast amidst native animals & birds, to symbolise the threat that the Government's backing of coal mining represents to biodiversity & climate stability.

SHVC is protesting Conservation Minister Chris Carter's decision supporting coal mining on Mt Augustus on the West Coast of the South Island.

DoC has closed the public conservation land at Mt Augustus, 30km from Westport, to allow coal miner Solid Energy to continue blasting. Activists remain camped on DoC land, where they have been for the past three weeks, in an attempt to save the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered Powelliphanta 'Augustus' snail and draw attention to the climate changing nature of Solid Energy's coal extraction.

In April 2006, Conservation Minister Chris Carter gave permission for the rare endemic Powelliphanta 'Augustus' snails to be removed from most of their known habitat, on the ridgeline of Mt Augustus.

This overrode scientific advice provided by DoC's snail expert Kath Walker, that moving the snails is likely to result in their extinction. Professor Timothy New of La Trobe University in Melbourne reviewed the evidence & concluded "the only option with high likelihood of retaining the snail population is absolute protection of the remaining habitat & its surrounds …".

SHVC Spokesperson Alex Winter-Billington said, "The Department of Conservation's official mission is "to conserve New Zealand's natural & historic heritage for all to enjoy now & in the future".

"It is blatantly hypocritical that they are supporting the wholesale destruction of pristine wilderness area & habitat, as well as the frightening & broad-reaching impact of climate change when the coal extracted is burnt."

"Essentially, however, it is clear that DoC is simply a pawn in this Government's unchecked pursuit of short-term economic gain, placing our natural heritage & future in the face of global climate change at risk."

"We are here today in solidarity with the activists currently occupying Mt Augustus and to draw attention to the hypocrisy of the decisions made by our Conservation Minister."


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