Happy Valley – The fight continues

May 2, 2007

Below is an article I just wrote for the next issue of Auckland Animal Action‘s newsletter/zine.

As the campaign to save Happy Valley, on the West Coast of the South Island, from being turned into a destructive opencast coal mine by state-owned Solid Energy enters its fourth year, the Save Happy Valley Coalition (SHVC) is continuing to take action around the country.

In Happy Valley itself, SHVC maintains the country’s longest lasting environmental occupation in history. On January 28th, 2006, 75 people made the three hour tramp into Happy Valley to begin the occupation and now, more than 15 months later, the occupation camp is looking beautiful and is ready to withstand its second harsh West Coast winter with snow, seemingly endless rain and biting cold. The Roa/Great Spotted Kiwi in the Valley call out to us every night and Western Weka roam around the campsite in a potent reminder of what stands to be lost if Solid Energy is allowed to destroy the precious ecosystem to mine climate changing coal.

Meanwhile, in Auckland, Wellington, the top of the South Island, Christchurch, Dunedin and the West Coast itself, local SHV groups are running stalls, public talks and film screenings, putting up posters and stickers, protesting and engaging in direct action.

On Sunday April 29th, two SHV activists in Christchurch locked themselves onto train tracks to prevent a coal train from Solid Energy’s Stockton mine arriving in the port of Lyttelton. At the same time, other SHV activists swarmed the coal train (which had stopped upon being informed of the locked on activists) hanging a 22 metre long banner reading “Solid Energy = Govt Sponsored Climate Change – http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz”. The two activists, secured by metal pipes inside concrete laid under the tracks, remained there for several hours until fire rescue crew were able to remove them after jack hammering, grinding and digging away at the concrete. Both activists were charged with “interferes with railway line”, while their support person was arrested and charged with “communicating with a prisoner” after passing a bottle of water to the locked-on activists. In solidarity with this action, the Wellington SHV group hung a 10 metre long banner reading “Coal Mining = Climate Chaos – http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz” from a motorway overbridge on the morning of Monday 30th.

SHVC needs your help! Join (or start) a local group and get involved in the campaign, or come and join our occupation (for 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months). We aim to provide food and transport costs for longer-term occupiers, so money shouldn’t be an obstacle. If you are interested, or want to find out more, visit our website at http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz or email occupation@savehappyvalley.org.nz for occupation related questions.


Greenwash sucks

April 12, 2007

I got a little bored for a minute, so fired off this letter to the editor to the Dominion Post. Hopefully it gets published.

With the release of the latest report from the IPCC, Climate Change Minister David Parker is doing his best to reassure us that the Labour Government is taking climate change seriously, and working hard to lower New Zealand’s emissions. This rhetoric around “carbon neutrality” could not be further from the truth. While some of the Crown fleet is moving towards lower emission vehicles, state-owned coal miner Solid Energy is responsible for extracting coal which, when burnt, will produce emissions roughly equivalent to ALL the cars, buses and trucks on New Zealand’s roads each year. The Labour Government, meanwhile, encourages Solid Energy to extract even more coal! What we need is a swift transition away from the extraction and use of coal, and to create new areas of employment for Solid Energy employees, such as rehabilitation of the vast areas destroyed by the most polluting SOE.

Labour has shown time and time again that it is not really interested in tackling climate change in any meaningful way. Its “greenwash” is nothing but cover for more environmental destruction, for species extinction and for making hundreds of millions of people worldwide into climate refugees.


Solid Energy sue Save Happy Valley Coalition for revealing environmental destruction

March 1, 2007

Yesterday, the Save Happy Valley Coalition released a report into Solid Energy’s environmental destruction in 2006. Within a few hours, Solid Energy had filed in the High Court for an injunction to prevent the release of the report. They are suing SHVC, it’s media spokesperson and the host of it’s website for defamation, injurious falsehood and a breach of section 9 of the fair trading act.

The report is an honest and factual account of the destruction caused by the state-owned coal-miner. Obviously, the truth about their activities is the last thing Solid Energy want anyone to know or be talking about, so it is important that the report is spread far and wide.

You can download the report in .pdf format in two parts here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Solid Energy files injunction against Save Happy Valley Coalition

Press Release: Save Happy Valley Coalition

1st March 2007

Save Happy Valley Coalition says bring it on!

The Save Happy Valley Coalition is refusing to remove a satirical document from their website after Solid Energy filed an injunction application for defamation.

The State-owned coal company filed the injunction at the High Court in Christchurch against the climate justice group yesterday afternoon after the group posted the satirical Solid Energy Environmental Report at http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/envtreport

Solid Energy is claiming that “the plaintiff has suffered and is likely to suffer damage or injury to its reputation as a result of the defendants’ actions.”

Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier says that the Coalition has welcomed the defamation case as an opportunity to debate the environmental record of the State-owned climate changer.

“Solid Energy’s injunction just goes to show how far a well resourced bully – that can’t take a joke – is willing to go,” she said. “They’ve used tax-payers money to destroy kiwi-habitat, hire surveillance companies to spy on us, used explosives dangerously near one of our protest campsites and now they’ve got high-paid lawyers to stop us from having a bit of fun whilst raising awareness about climate change and environmental destruction. We’re not going to remove it – Solid Energy, bring it on!”

Mountier said that while the group’s report is only a bit of a laugh, the dirty-coal company’s real environmental record is no joke.

“Solid Energy is polluting rivers, destroying kiwi habitat, driving an endemic snail to extinction, and is annually putting as much CO2 into out atmosphere as every vehicle in New Zealand. Their over-the-top reaction simply confirms that deep down, they know that we are right.”.

The injunction is expected to be heard in court today or tomorrow.

The report – which is can legally be distributed and published until such time as an injunction may be granted – is available at

http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/resources/envrep1.pdf

http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/resources/envrep2.pdf

//ENDS

Notes

1. The Environment Report begins:
This year Solid Energy successfully extracted more than 4.7 million tonnes of coal, contributing 10.3 million tonnes of climate-changing carbon dioxide to the global atmosphere. We made progress with our mountain top removal project (despite significant delays), and used a legal loophole in Court to continue driving an endemic New Zealand species to extinction without prosecution. We worked closely with Helen Clark to ensure that the launch of New Zealand’s climate change policy made more reference to ‘clean coal’ than renewable energy. Solid Energy is a state owned enterprise, so our dividend goes straight to the Government. On a community level, we also succeeded in having more power than ever at our Stockton Environmental Consultative Group meetings (conveniently set up to ‘consult’ local community organisations and environmental groups).

It then proceeds to detail in a very factual manner the damage that the state owned coal miner has caused to waterways, biodiversity, ecosystems, local communities, critically endangered species and the climate.

2. The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy’s proposed open cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley) on the West Coast. They work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy, including Powelliphanta “Augustus” at the nearby Stockton mine. The Coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers and the general public. The group has a track record of creative protests and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. They have been occupying Happy Valley since 28th January 2006. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm


Happy Valley and strategy

January 23, 2007

Recently, anarchafairy posted Happy Valley and a Divergence in Strategy over on his blog. You should ideally read that post (and if you have time the comments as well) in order to place this post in its full context. There have been some fairly angry comments in reply from others involved with the Save Happy Valley Coalition, hardly any of which could be labelled constructive in any way (unlike anarchafairy’s original post). Earlier today, I prepared to add my comments, but they went on a big long so I decided to expand it into a post here.

I find it sad (although unsurprising) that a well thought out and constructive critique has been responded to with personal attacks by some of the commenters in this post. When confronted with criticism of beliefs we hold dear, it is far too easy to respond defensively and take any criticism (no matter how constructive) of our actions as criticism of ourselves, rather than actually taking in the criticism and considering it.

Like anarchafairy, I too was not involved in the banner drop, although I am active in the SHV Wellington group (and SHVC nationally). While I had a number of reasons for not being involved (including being quite sick at the time), the relevance of the action (or more accurately the lack thereof) was definately a factor in my decision not to take part.

As has been the case a number of times when myself or anarchafairy have criticised the strategy and/or tactics chosen by SHVC, our positions have been both misunderstood and misrepresented by others. This was one of the reasons that we co-authored an Anarchist Position Piece on the Save Happy Valley campaign, a detailed document that gives a pretty damn good outline of where we are coming from, and outlines our critique of the strategy of “public support” and SHVC’s interaction with the corporate media thus far. In doing this, it provides a background and context for the discussion that has been continued with anarchafairy’s post and this response.

As anarchafairy stated, at the most recent SHVC hui, we decided that “direct action and economic costing was the best pathway” and that, as a Coalition, we had no faith in and did not wish to partake in lobbying. This has been reinforced since in countless informal discussions I have had with SHVC members from across the country. Yet, despite this, we continue to see proposals made and carried out for ideas which cannot be described as direct action or economic costing, and those few DA proposals which are made are generally dismissed out of hand or left to the side and soon forgotten about.

The recent banner drop is an excellent case in point. It was set up to be a media stunt, but ignored the fact that the media are long past the point of caring about simplistic stunts when it comes to SHVC – the lack of media coverage of the banner drop from the rooftop of Solid Energy in February should have proven this conclusively. In that action, there were 3 arrests (always a benefit for getting corporate media attention) and yet there was still little reporting, and so how SHVC people thought a banner drop with no arrests would get media bemuses me. Despite this, many caring and passionate activists (and friends of mine) put a large amount of time into this action, scouting, planning, painting and of course actually doing it. To see them get no result from this saddens me, as I care about them, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

The banner drop, through the media coverage it was “supposed” to get, was aimed at connecting Happy Valley with climate change in the minds of “the public”. It was based on the (incredibly naive) idea that politicians have to listen to “the public” and that if only enough people out there think that Happy Valley shouldn’t be mined, that the Government will be forced to stop it.

Those in favour of this “public support” strategy point to the Native Forest Action campaign to stop native forest logging (that a number of SHVC members were involved in) as an example of how the “public support” strategy works, but they seem to ignore other campaigns such as the GE Free NZ campaign and the Foreshore & Seabed campaign which had public support at even higher levels than NFA (certainly much higher for GE Free, perhaps not for Foreshore & Seabed) but completely failed. They ignore the undeniably unique political situation that allowed NFA to capitalise on a Labour Party that needed the “environmental vote” to attain power, and they ignore the reality of the functioning of our political and economic system.

Ever since I got seriously involved in SHVC, I have posed one question which is yet to be answered. Every time we draw strategy diagrams, every time we do critical path analyses, I pose the question to those in favour of the “public support” strategy: “How does ‘public opposition to Happy Valley mine’ progress to the next step of ‘Government stops mine’?” As yet, nobody has answered this question.

Within this campaign, the only people who have written and/or proposed comprehensive strategy plans are anarchists – myself and anarchafairy have written a number between us (generally each more detailed than the last) and a handful of others have written them too – but we are yet to see a strategy plan for getting from where we are today to winning written by someone who supports the “public support” strategy. All the strategy sessions that SHVC has agrees with a direct action strategy to win. Why then, when it comes to our activity, is virtually everything we do confined to the realm of gaining “public support”?


Giant Happy Valley banner unfurled from Wellington cranes

January 16, 2007

“Solid Energy = Govt sponsored climate change”

Press release: Save Happy Valley Coalition

A giant banner – “Solid Energy = govt sponsored climate change” – has been unfurled early this morning 45m above the harbour front at Queens Wharf, Jarvois Street. Two campaigners have hung the 69 square metre banner, which aims to highlight the urgent need for New Zealand to phase out the export and use of coal, and tackle the root causes of climate change.

“Climate change is one of the greatest environmental threats we face. It is a global problem – every country on earth contributes emissions, and every country feels the effects of rising global sea levels and temperatures” said Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier. “In particular, the Pacific is incredibly vulnerable to sea level rise and chaotic climatic events. New Zealand has a regional and global responsibility to address our carbon dioxide emissions.

“Coal produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced than any other fossil fuel,” said Ms Mountier. “Burning it will lead to dangerous climate change. Even the Economist magazine has labelled the burning of coal as environmental enemy number one.

“Yet the New Zealand Government is being socially irresponsible by encouraging the rampant expansion of its coal mining company Solid Energy – at a time where we desperately need to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.

“The Government’s claimed aspiration to “carbon neutrality” is nothing but hypocrisy and empty rhetoric and it must be replaced by actual steps for a just transition away from coal, and for tackling the root causes of climate change,” said Ms Mountier.

“New Zealand can lead the world by stepping away from new coal mines – rather than the Government encouraging an increase in coal extraction. Solid Energy currently produces 4.67 million tonnes of coal per year – greater than the C02 equivalent of all the cars, trucks and buses on New Zealand roads. More than half of this is exported, so it is a hidden impact; New Zealand does not account for these emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. In New Zealand, as well as plans for coal fired power stations, Solid Energy also wants to create diesel from coal – a process that emits twice as much carbon dioxide as regular petroleum use.

“The Government and Solid Energy justify these plans with talk of ‘carbon sequestration.’ This technology is, at minimum, twenty years away from being viable at an industrial scale. We are seeing money that should be invested in renewables is instead squandered away justifying business-as-usual. In the next twenty years, we could see more than 20 million tonnes of coal extracted, and burnt – without carbon sequestration technology. Any new facilities such as coal fired power stations would then live out their lives without sequestration technologies. The absolute majority of coal would still be burnt without such technologies in place.(2)

“Meanwhile, the bulldozers of Solid Energy’s operations condemn beautiful areas like Happy Valley to desecration, species to extinction, and waterways to unimaginable pollution. Many ecosystems, and the global climate, face a catastrophic future if we do begin phasing out our reliance on coal now. It is time we seriously tackle the root causes of climate change,” said Ms Mountier.

//ENDS

Footnotes

1. R. T. Pierrehumbert, a lead author of chapter 7 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has written that:

“It is estimated that potential coal resources are sufficient to enable us not just to double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but to quadruple or nearly octuple the pre-industrial value.34 With continued reliance on fossil fuels, continued economic growth, and an approach to parity between developing and developed countries, we could easily burn that much coal in two hundred to four hundred years.” p. 15, Climate Change: A Catastrophe in Slow Motion, R.T. Pierrehumbert, Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago since 1989. From geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/LawReview Catastrophe.pdf

2. Nationally and internationally, most new coal fired power stations will continue to operate without Carbon capture and storage facilities. The following graph is produced by the International Energy Agency. www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7103/images/442620a-i4.0.jpg

Save Happy Valley Coalition

The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy’s proposed open cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley) on the West Coast. They work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy. The Coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers and the general public. The group has a track record of creative protests, occupations and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm


Save Happy Valley: The Movie

January 16, 2007

A while ago some people in the Save Happy Valley Coalition got together and made a movie about the campaign so far. As the campaign progresses, with the first anniversary of the occupation of Happy Valley approaching, I decided to put the movie online for everyone’s viewing pleasure. So here it is, split into two parts thanks you YouTube’s limits (the movie is about 12 mins all up).

Part 1:

Part 2:

If you don’t see the embedded videos, head here for part one and here for part two.

A high-res version of the movie is also available, click here to download it (107MB). This version is high enough quality to show on a projector/screen, if anyone so wishes.


Happy Valley occupation 1st anniversary celebration!

January 11, 2007

OCCUPATION CELEBRATION

THE WEEKEND OF JANUARY 27th – 28th 2007

Kia ora to all our supporters,

You’re warmly invited to the Save Happy Valley Coalition’s celebration of our first successful year of occupying Happy Valley. We have been continuously occupying Happy Valley since January 28th 2006 in order to prevent Solid Energy from turning it into an environmentally devastating opencast coal-mine.

The Save Happy Valley Coalition, and anyone who wishes to join us for the weekend celebration, will be meeting in Westport, at 8am on Saturday 27th January 2007. (The majority of us will travel to Westport from Christchurch on the Friday night, car pooling can be arranged thru the coordinator). Please email us for meeting location in Westport – and if you have spare spaces for the drive to the start of the track (60mins drive), or alternatively if you will need a ride [Coordinator details below].

You will need all of your own tramping/camping gear and food, enough for the duration of your intended stay and YOU MUST be prepared for unpredictable weather; rain; sun; hot and cold. This means that you MUST have suitable footwear, waterproof and warm clothing, a sleeping bag and a tent (unless you have arranged to share with someone else). An extended gear list will be made available to you when you confirm plans with the occupation coordinator. If you do not have the required gear we may be able to provide it for you, we will not allow you to join us if you are inappropriately equipped for the weekend, no excuses accepted. We do not want an avoidable accident to jeopardize the success of an occupation we have worked so hard to maintain.

We will be leaving the valley / returning to Westport on Sunday the 28th; you may stay longer in the Valley if you wish but you must arrange this with the coordinator.

It is really important that you make contact with us if you intend to join us for this weekend. This is so that we can prepare the campsite, other facilities, vehicles and so on for the appropriate number of people. We do not want people tramping into the valley on their own during the weekend, but we can be flexible if you make plans with us beforehand. Please let us know if you have any special needs that are of concern, we will be as accommodating as possible and we can provide you with as much information as you require.

For more information please contact the current occupation coordinator.

Thanks for your support!

Frances

Occupation Coordinator

occupation[at]savehappyvalley[dot]org[dot]nz

http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/occupation


Save Happy Valley – The year in review

January 6, 2007

For those of you who don’t know, one of the major campaigns I work on is the campaign to save Happy Valley. The Valley is a pristine sub-alpine wetland on the West Coast of the South Island, with plenty of rare and endangered native species living in it, that is the planned site for an open-cast coal mine run by state-owned coal miner Solid Energy. The campaign has been running since 2004, but in the last year has really stepped up the level of activity. If you want to find out more, visit the Save Happy Valley Coalition website.

January

The year started with a bang – early January saw around 35 people from all over the country converge near Otautahi/Christchurch for a national hui, where campaign strategy was discussed, skillshares were run and a whole lot of new people with new energy became involved in the campaign. Out of the hui, new local groups formed in Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland and Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington. Some out-of-towners remained in Christchurch following the hui to help prepare for the upcoming occupation.

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On January 28th, around 75 people met at Les Warren park in Westport to begin what has now become the longest running environmental occupation in Aotearoa’s history. In several groups, the 75 did the 3 hour walk through beautiful native bush into the campsite, with many stopping at the incredible swimming hole halfway along the journey for a refreshing swim on a hot sunny day.

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While Solid Energy had planned to start building roads and other infrastructure for the mine in early 2006, soon after the beginning of the occupation this changed to late 2006.

“We are overwhelmed by the response and numbers we have had. Opposition to this mine has continued to grow as more and more New Zealanders have found out about this travesty of environmental justice,” said Frances Mountier, Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson.

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February

In the first week of the occupation, the camp was visited by renowned wetland ecologist Dr Alan Mark. He stated that Solid Energy’s plan to remove, store and then replace 12 hectares of wetland was impossible, and that the only attempt to do so in the past, in Zurich, Switzerland, had been a total failure. In an SHVC press release, spokesperson Frances Mountier said

“While the Department of Conservation celebrates World Wetlands Day around the country, the Government is at the same time intent on destroying this place. Nationally over 90% of wetlands have been destroyed; the rest should be cherished.”

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Also in the first week, Austrian Gregor Siebock walked to Happy Valley, as part of his 13,000km+ walk around the world to promote sustainability. Interviewed by local newspaper the Westport News, he stated that

“Walking into Happy Valley was very special for me… if you are familiar with classical music it was like a crescendo, it got better and better and when I was in there I felt so happy. That is what I want to share with the people of the West Coast, it is such a beautiful place and worth so much more than its weight in coal.”

Solid Energy’s greenwash continued, with the company ludicrously claiming that it had come within 2% of having a net positive effect on the environment! For a company that makes its money from destroying ecosystems, this claim was clearly far from the truth, and this was pointed out resoundingly by SHVC.

Meanwhile, in Christchurch, three SHVC members faced court for an action the previous August, where 2 had locked themselves onto train tracks with a third suspended from a rope above the tracks in order to stop coal trains from reaching Lytellton port. Solid Energy attempted to claim US$150,000 in reparations from the three, but dropped the claim after negative publicity. The two who had been locked to the tracks were found guilty and ordered to pay reparations to the owner of the tracks for repair costs, while the third was found not guilty.

The Wellington Save Happy Valley group performed its first action, releasing 150 inflatable Kiwi in a popular inner city park and acting out street theatre with Solid Energy CEO Don Elder ordering reluctant miners to destroy the Kiwi in order to get to the coal underneath. A spokesperson for the Wellington group said

“While the pain suffered by the inflatable kiwi may not have been real, the destruction that Solid Energy aims to wreak cannot be laughed off so easily.

The proposed Cypress Mine in Happy Valley must be stopped. The lives of Great Spotted Kiwi (Roa), the Powelliphanta Patrickensis giant carnivorous land snail and a number of other rare and endangered species are at stake.”

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Towards the end of the month, three Christchurch Happy Valley members scaled the national headquarters of Solid Energy in the middle of the night. The next morning, a loud street protest outside and TV news cameras filming the roof had Solid Energy staff members wondering what was going on. It soon became clear as a large banner reading “Save Happy Valley! Stop Solid Energy!” was hung from the roof. Not long after, two activists climbed a short way down the wall and hung another banner reading “Save Happy Valley! Support The Occupation!” between them. All three activists on the roof were arrested. In Wellington, two large banners were hung from motorway overbridges into the city, and remained for almost a week, and a SHV member dressed as a Great Spotted Kiwi (Roa) went to parliament and met with Green Party MPs and the minister of conservation to discuss the issues.

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While mining at their open-cast Stockton mine, near Happy Valley, Solid Energy found a Powelliphanta “Augustus” snail, a critically endangered snail species, outside their known habitat (also scheduled to be mined). They were forced to stop mining in a small area, and applied to conservation minister Chris Carter for a permit to continue. SHVC called for Carter to deny the permit, however he approved it. In the face of a massive PR operation by Solid Energy, SHVC shed light on some of their many lies, fabrications and falsehoods.

March

The Auckland SHV group took their first action at the start of March, confronting Solid Energy CEO Don Elder at a speech he was giving at the National Power Conference entitled “The Future Of Coal”. An SHV Auckland spokesperson said

“Coal is a major contributor to climate change and one of the most polluting sources of energy on the face of the earth. Solid Energy plans to extract 5 million tonnes of coal from Happy Valley, when burnt it will amount to 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide discharged into the atmosphere, fuelling climate chaos. We won’t have a future with coal.

So today, we take this opportunity to oppose Solid Energy’s callous disregard for this fragile ecosystem and the native species that depend on it.”

The occupation went from strength to strength during march, with the number of people who had stayed at the camp climbing past the 150 mark. Plans were made to cope with the upcoming winter months, with cold, snow, rain and wind expected to make the continuing use of tents unfeasible.

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A new “top of the south” SHV group organised a public meeting in Motueka with speakers from SHVC, Forest & Bird and the Green Party. Solid Energy declined an offer to speak, once again showing their unwillingness to debate the issues on an even footing.

During the Easter weekend, 45 people walked in to Happy Valley to join the occupation, including an MP from the Green Party. In addition to the Green Party, the occupation had received messages of support from a number of different organisations across Aotearoa.

“The support we have received has been overwhelming, and serves to show that the public is firmly opposed to Solid Energy’s destructive plans. The Labour government is standing by while a state-owned enterprise pollutes our waterways, destroys habitat of Great Spotted Kiwi (Roa) and contributes to climate change,”

At the end of March, SHVC members from across Aotearoa again gathered to plan, this time in Wellington. The hui focused on improving internal communication and long-term planning.

SHVC used census night as an opportunity to bring to light the dim future for Kiwi as their habitat continued to be destroyed.

“The 2006 census will undoubtedly show that the number of Kiwis in the world continues to grow. But for the feathered Kiwi in this country, things look more alarming. The great spotted kiwi population is declining: in 1998 there were thought to be around 22,000 adults; today that figure is more like 17,000. In Happy Valley, the greatest threat facing kiwi is not stoats or dogs or possum traps – it’s Solid Energy”

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In late March, Solid Energy took their underhanded tactics to a new low, with two men being discovered spying on the occupation campsite with expensive electronic equipment. The men were likely from Thompson & Clark Investigations Limited, a private investigation firm employed by Solid Energy. Sadly, this would not be the last time T&C were found spying on the occupation.

April

In early April, conservation minister Chris Carter again showed where his priorities lay by granting Solid Energy a permit to move the main population of the endangered giant carnivorous land snail Powelliphanta “Augustus”, despite his own department’s science stating that this would lead to their extinction.

“This is a black day for New Zealand biodiversity,” said Frances Mountier, Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson. “Despite consistent advice from his Department that moving the snails will lead to their extinction, Chris Carter has bowed to pressure from Solid Energy and has signed off on New Zealand’s first state-sponsored species extinction.”

The next day SHVC again put out a press release to counter the greenwash and lies that Solid Energy had spun.

Solid Energy is continuing to mislead the public and the Government, simply to make a few extra dollars of profit at the expense of the extinction of one of New Zealand’s ancient taonga, the native land snail Powelliphanta augustus.

Documents received under the Official Information Act by Save Happy Valley Coalition members indicate that the state-owned coal company is desperate to keep the actual amount of coal under endangered snails secret, and that the amount is only a fraction of the $400 million it claims.

May

In early May, a benefit dinner was held in Christchurch to raise funds for the campaign. Featuring 3 speakers from SHVC, a 3 course vegan banquet, music and a slideshow of photos from the campaign, the event was a massive success.

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The occupation continued, with the 200th person staying at the campsite. In preparation for the cold winter, around 20 people tramped in the various parts needed to make a gher, a heavy duty Mongolian tent. One SHVC member built a pot-belly stove to go inside the gher to help keep it warm, with a chimney going out the roof.

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On May 22nd, SHVC members across the country celebrated World Biodiversity Day with actions. These included a picket of Solid Energy’s headquarters in Christchurch and a 1.5 metre tall snail crawling through central city Wellington.

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June

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Early June saw many students from Christchurch high school Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, some of whom had spent class time learning about the issues relating to the Happy Valley campaign, organise a march in support of SHVC. A mock funeral for Powelliphanta “Augustus” was held in central Christchurch, with the march ending near the school where a large banner was hung from a balcony. The students later made a movie from video footage taken on the day. Their spokesperson, a 15 year old student, stated that

“As young people, it is our futures, our generation that will see and live with the consequences of species extinction and all the impacts of climate change”

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Exploration of previously unexplored areas in the proposed mine site occurred, with giant trees found in the proposed area of the southern of the two mine pits. Meanwhile, winter began to hit in full force, with snow falling for the first time.

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At the end of June, SHVC Inc announced it would be taking Solid Energy to the environment court in an effort to protect Powelliphanta “Augustus”.

“It’s outrageous that the Minister made this decision, in light of overwhelming scientific advice that this will result in the extinction of the species,” said Ms Mountier.

Professor Timothy New of La Trobe University in Melbourne reviewed the evidence and concluded “the only option with high likelihood of retaining the snail population is absolute protection of the remaining habitat and its surrounds …”

July

In mid July SHVC Inc formally filed its case against Solid Energy in the environment court, and also filed for a judicial review of conservation minister Chris Carter’s decision in the high court.

“While the people of New Zealand are increasingly concerned about climate change, the Labour Government is expanding coal mines into nationally significant wetlands, prime kiwi habitat, and the only home of Powelliphanta ‘Augustus’”

Later in the month SHVC supported the call of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Morgan Williams for no more gas or coal fired power stations in Aotearoa.

Burning coal for electricity leads to the emission of carbon dioxide, worsening climate change. Coal power stations degrade local air quality and result in tonnes of pollutants that have to be disposed of. The extraction of coal also destroys habitat, further endangers threatened species and pollutes waterways.

At the end of the month, SHVC and supporters all over the country celebrated the six month anniversary of the occupation, and declared the entire Waimangaroa Valley (of which Happy Valley is a part) an autonomous zone. By this stage, over 300 people had joined the occupation at some stage.

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“Today, the delicate ecosystems of Happy Valley cease to exist merely as a source of revenue for Solid Energy, and now exist only for themselves. The Save Happy Valley Coalition [2] reaffirms its commitment to employ non-violent direct action to defend Happy Valley from both the digger and dynamite of state owned enterprise Solid Energy. By declaring the Valley as an autonomous zone [3], the Coalition has taken practical steps to ensure its protection,” said Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier.

“We have no illusions. As far the economic logic of the New Zealand and global economy is concerned, Happy Valley counts as little more than another short-term income source with a few ancient and threatened species blocking the way. This is despite the significant economic, social and environmental costs that we face if we do not address climate change. The dictates of profit, expansion and growth are directly opposed to genuine environmental and economic sustainability and we therefore declare Happy Valley autonomous of these economic imperatives.”

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August

After the filing of two court cases aimed at saving Powelliphanta Augustus from extinction, Solid Energy made moves to act on their permit as fast as possible in case it was revoked in court. August saw them breaking the conditions of their permit, and SHVC revealed that these critically endangered snails were being moved off their mountain home and into icecream containers in domestic fridges.

“One-third of the population is being kept in ice-cream containers in the fridge in Hokitika. This is not how you look after a critically endangered species. They’re pulling snails off the mountain as fast as they can, with no suitable captive rearing facility in sight, hundreds of kilometres from the Powelliphanta expert who was charged with their care, and with no known suitable habitat to put them in. So much for Chris Carter’s green-wash ‘conditions’!” said Frances Mountier, Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson.

Meanwhile, in Christchurch, Don Elder was scheduled to give the annual Hopkins lecture, organised by the University of Canterbury and IPENZ, the professional engineers body. Elder was scheduled to speak on the topic “The Economy and Energy: are both sustainable?” On the night, there was a heavy presence of both security guards and police officers, and Elder spent much of the start of his speech attempting to discredit SHVC. Not long after, a member of SHV Christchurch, dressed as a Great Spotted Kiwi (Roa), stood up in the middle of the crowd and loud Kiwi calls began to play from a hidden tape player elsewhere in the hall. Security Guards removed several people from the room, but not long after Elder restarted he was interrupted by two more people who stormed the stage and informed the crowd that Elder had no right to talk about sustainability. After these people were removed from the room, Elder was again interrupted by more SHV Christchurch members holding placards.

“With at least six security guards and five police officers at the meeting, it is clear that Elder knows what he is doing is wrong, and that there is heavy public opposition to it” said Save Happy Valley Christchurch spokesperson Frances Mountier.

“Even when the predominantly academic audience posed questions to Elder about sustainability, the security guards bought the questions abruptly to an end, claiming they were ‘off-topic’! Clearly, even the security knew that coal is, by its very definition unsustainable, and thus Elder would not be able to answer.

At the end of August, the three SHVC members that had climbed the roof of Solid Energy in a February action had their trials. Two were found not guilty, with one found guilty and ordered to pay reparations to fix a door that was broken down by Police in their effort to reach the three.

A successful public meeting was also held in Wellington during August, getting a number of new people involved in the Wellington SHV group.

September

Early September saw the first death of a Powelliphanta “Augustus” snail in captivity.

“The snails have started to die in captivity. This was expected, given the rate at which Solid Energy have been taking this species from their habitat, given that they are still in domestic fridges in Hokitika, and given that there are no proper captivity facilities in sight,” said Frances Mountier, spokesperson for the Save Happy Valley Coalition.

“Department of Conservation scientists said that the only way to ensure the survival of the species was to leave it on its last remaining 5ha of habitat, not moldering in a fridge. Second generation snails have consistently died in captivity – in fact there is no evidence they can live anywhere apart from their current habitat.”

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In response, mid-September saw a 1.5 metre tall snail chain itself to the doors of the Department of Conservation office in Hokitika, where the snails were being kept in domestic fridges. At the same time, SHVC members delivered a list of demands to West Coast conservator Mike Slater, including a return of all Augustus snails to their habitat and an end to state-sanctioned species extinction.

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October

While walking into Happy Valley, one of the occupiers noticed something in the bush. Upon investigation, this turned out to be a powerful spy camera with high zoom, attached to four dry cell batteries and a hard drive. The camera, which had only been in place a few days, was undoubtedly set up by Thompson & Clark, Solid Energy’s private investigation firm, to monitor everyone who came and went from the occupation.

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“Solid Energy’s behaviour is nothing short of a disgrace. We have found this camera, but how many others have Solid Energy put out to surveil those who disagree with their policy? To ensure our safety, we demand Solid Energy guarantee that there are no further cameras or spying equipment targeted at members of the Save Happy Valley Coalition, and that they will not attempt underhanded tactics such as this at any time in the future.”

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Despite asking both Solid Energy and T&C to come and pick up the thousands of dollars worth of equipment, neither has contacted SHVC thus far.

In response to the Government’s trumpeting of “clean coal” technology, SHVC set the record straight.

“How can the Government claim to seriously address climate change while state-owned enterprise Solid Energy plans to create diesel from lignite at its Ohai mine? That process creates twice as much carbon dioxide as normal fuel use. The Government should put their bulldozers with their mouth is; there must be no new coal mine in Happy Valley and plans for coal fired power stations Marsden B and Birchfield must be dumped,” said Ms Mountier.

A fundraising gig for SHVC was also held in Wellington, which was very successful.

November

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SHVC took part in the global day of action against climate change on November 4th. In Wellington, several people were body-painted with themes of the campaign and marched through town, while in Christchurch a beach party was held at Solid Energy’s headquarters, to show that rising sea levels could potentially mean the beach encroaching all the way to Solid Energy’s front door.

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An OIA request also revealed that Solid Energy had recently recieved a permit to “hunt, kill or possess” Kiwi at their Stockton mine. The permit was granted despite predictions that Kiwi could be extinct on mainland Aotearoa within 20 years.

“Habitat protection is going to become increasingly critical for this species. Solid Energy is currently mining habitat of great spotted kiwi at Mt Augustus (Stockton mine), and plan to destroy a prime area in Happy Valley,” says Frances Mountier, Spokesperson for the Coalition.

“According to an independent review, New Zealand’s Biodiversity Strategy is failing to protect natural areas and species on public and private land. This is no surprise when the Government’s own bulldozers are desecrating high value habitat,” says Ms Mountier.

December

SHVC Inc lost its high court case in early December. It also lost its environment court case on a technicality after long deliberations by the judges. While they found Solid Energy’s actions “noxious, dangerous, offensive or objectionable” and agreed with SHVC Inc that the best chance for the survival of Powelliphanta Augustus would be to leave them untouched, they decided they did not have jurisdiction to be able to stop Solid Energy.

“The Court recognises that Solid Energy made no attempt to amend its mining plans to avoid the snail and makes a mockery of the Minister of Conservation’s decision to allow Solid Energy to kill the snails. The Court has indicated that the mining is a catastrophic event for the snails and that the mitigation proposed by Solid Energy is high risk.

“While the court recognises the dire situation these snails are in, a special legal loophole means that it is unable to protect them. An appeal will be lodged against the decision and we hope to have it filed today,” said Ms Mountier.

Later in the month, Solid Energy announced they would attempt to seek hundreds of thousands of dollars costs from SHVC Inc.

Solid Energy also attempted to use a single death of Powelliphanta “Augustus” in its new habitat to claim that SHVC Inc’s claims in court had been false, but once again their greenwash fell far short of the truth.

The Struggle Continues…

Of course, what I’ve written here was only a portion of our activity. Dozens of stalls were run in cities and towns across the country, a benefit festival was held in the South Island, thousands of posters and stickers stuck on walls all over Aotearoa, and a number of talks were given by SHVC members to local schools, community and religious groups. As the new year comes and the occupation approaches its first anniversary, SHVC is as strong as ever. With local groups in Auckland, Wellington, Top of the South Island, Christchurch, Dunedin and the West Coast and supporters all over the country, we are ready and willing to ensure that the Valley remains safe and untouched by Solid Energy’s destructive plans.

“In the course of this campaign we’ve come up against camouflaged spies, overzealous security guards and a police roadblock. In the face of this we are still here, there is no mine and the Waimangaroa Valley is still intact, and as beautiful as ever.”

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Coal to send Christchurch under waves

November 3, 2006

PRESS RELEASE

Save Happy Valley Christchurch

November 3rd 2006

Save Happy Valley are holding a beach party outside state-owned coal miner Solid Energy’s headquarters, to highlight the new coastline that coal companies may commit the world to by the end of the century. The event starts at 3:45pm today at 2 Show Place, Christchurch.

“Coal produces more carbon dioxide per energy produced than any of the other fossil fuels. Burning it will lead to dangerous climate change. Even the Economist magazine has labelled the burning of coal as environmental enemy number one,” said Save Happy Valley spokesperson Frances Mountier.

“The New Zealand Government has said they’re taking climate change seriously – so they cannot continue supporting a company that is digging coal up faster and faster. This is a company that has plans to create diesel from coal – a process that emits twice as much carbon dioxide as regular petroleum use.

“A recent report found that even moderate targets – for carbon dioxide stabilisation – could still trigger a collapse of the Greenland Ice Cap by the end of the century. It could take three thousand years to melt completely, but the fastest melting would be early on; once that started, there would be no turning back,” said Ms Mountier.

Save Happy Valley has produced a map of what Christchurch would look like under eight metres of water – 7.2m from Greenland, and an additional .8m through thermal expansion and the melting of small glaciers.

“This would bring climate change and sea level rise to Solid Energy’s doorstep, but up to a billion people would be affected first, in low lying cities around the world,” said Ms Mountier.

ENDS

Attached:

Map showing Christchurch after an 8m rise in sea level.

Notes:

1. Pages 14-17 of http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/LawReviewCatastrophe.pdf show that dangerous climate change is not possible without coal.

2. Solid Energy’s current production is 4.67 million tonnes of coal per year – greater than the C02 equivalent of all the cars, trucks and buses on New Zealand roads.

3. Once a threshold of 2.7C warming has occurred over Greenland, which is likely to occur this century, the ice sheet will begin to collapse (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/adcc/BookCh4Jan2006.pdf )

4. Saturday November 4th is the International Day of Action On Climate Change, beginning a week of action to coincide with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Nairobi from 6-17 November. For more information visit http://www.climatedefence.org.nz

5. The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups (including the Christchurch group) and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy’s proposed ope cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley) on the West Coast. They work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy – such as the Powelliphanta snail at the nearby Mt Augustus. The Coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers and the general public. The group has a track record of creative protests, occupations and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm


Hidden Camera Found At Protest Site

October 10, 2006

Press release from the Save Happy Valley Coalition:

Hidden Camera Found At Protest Site

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The Save Happy Valley Coalition has discovered several thousand dollars worth of spying equipment on public land, camouflaged near the start of the track into their occupation. The equipment, which included a camera with 27x optical zoom, over one hundred metres of cable, a hard drive and four dry cell batteries, was hidden in bush and would have been able to identify -in detail- every single person who joined and left the legal occupation, which has run for over eight months.

Solid Energy previously admitted to hiring Thompson & Clark Investigations Limited (TCIL) [1] after two TCIL employees were discovered spying on the campsite in February.

“Solid Energy has already invaded our privacy, by employing private investigators to hide out watching our camp. Now they are taking photos of people visiting the occupation. If Thompson & Clark Investigations Limited purchased or set up the camera, they are in breach of the Private Investigators and Security Guards Act” [2] said Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier.

“There is no justification for any employee or contractor of a company owned by the public of New Zealand to spy –with a hidden camera- on people camping on public land.”

“Solid Energy’s behaviour is nothing short of a disgrace. We have found this camera, but how many others have Solid Energy put out to surveil those who disagree with their policy? To ensure our safety, we demand Solid Energy guarantee that there are no further cameras or spying equipment targeted at members of the Save Happy Valley Coalition, and that they will not attempt underhanded tactics such as this at any time in the future.”

“The camera, hard drive and other equipment have been removed from their location and the owners are invited to call and arrange a time to pick it up.”

// ENDS

NOTES

[1] Jo Thompson of Thompson & Clark Investigations Limited can be contacted on (09) 302 0113.

[2] The Private Investigators and Security Guards Act 1974 states:

“Every person, who, in the course of or in connection with the business of a private investigator, -

(a) Takes or causes to be taken, or uses or accepts for use, any photograph, cinematographic picture, or videotape recording of another person; or

(b) By any mechanical device records or causes to be recorded the voice or speech of another person, – without the prior consent in writing of that other person, commits and offence [against this act]“


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