Friday, 22 April 2011


By Scott Willis

A dirty secret
Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust patron, climate change campaigner
and former co-leader of the Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons gave an
inspiring and impassioned presentation on "Why Southland Lignite
Shouldn't Be Mined" on 20 April to a packed University of Otago
lecture theatre.
Lignite is to coal what meths is to wine – consume it in any way,
shape or form and the trip from poisoning to death is a relatively
short one. Yet Solid Energy, one of our State Owned Enterprises, has
just this goal: strip-off productive green Southland soils to
open-cast mine the dirtiest, wettest, lowest energy containing mud
found in NZ.
Their goal is to turn it into 'briquettes' (like wood pellets, only
made of dried lignite mud – a dirty carbon form), urea (industrial
fertiliser – nitrates in our waterways anyone?), and diesel (peak oil
means people get desperate). This is the new NZ Energy Strategy – or
'dig it up and burn it'.
The consequences for Southland farmers and communities are already
being felt as tenant farmers replace landowners, resulting in a
fracturing of community ties. But when industrial processing plants
are located right next to new lignite pits, there's no knowing what
will happen to the beautiful clean aquifers, and there's a certainty
that productive land will turn into a wasteland, turning NZ's trading
image (Clean and Green) into an international joke (lignite is already
being dried, burnt in Fonterra's Southland plant). And if a free trade
partner such as China were to buy 49% of Solid Energy, for example, in
the next parliamentary term when our SOEs are partially privatised, NZ
can be taken to an international court if we try to impose pollution
standards on production. The massive increase in carbon emissions will
be paid by tax-payers – but we'll all be richer, right? Once we've
sold our NZ assets... New Zealand's energy future seems both literally
and figuratively dark and dirty, looking at the new Energy Strategy
and its effects. The Coal Action Network Aotearoa is doing an
excellent job in providing information on this issue and keeping
people informed or simply providing answers.
To follow this issue more closely, email
and ask to be put on their mailing list.

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