Schedule 4 back-down won’t solve the problem

Written By: - Date published: 12:30 pm, May 10th, 2010 - 10 comments
Categories: climate change, Conservation, Mining - Tags: , , , , ,

This post by kathy at the Greenpeace blog dispels some of the Brownlee bullshit. The bulk of the proposed mining is for coal. Used with permission.

Predictably, the Government is gearing up to backtrack on some of the more extreme and unpalatable elements of its mining proposals. At a National Party regional conference in Masterton at the weekend, both John Key and Gerry Brownlee signaled they may be prepared to pull back the throttle on carnage in our most protected areas. But they will still push on with mining conservation land, not all of which is ‘high value’ according to Brownlee.

Hmm, interesting when you think about it. Hasn’t the Government been saying all along that it wouldn’t mine land of high conservation value? Is Mr Brownlee now admitting that the Government’s earlier promises were untrue?

te-ahumataIs the impending backdown over schedule 4 even a good thing? If Great Barrier Island’s stunning Te Ahumata Plateau remains un-scathed, all the better. And if Coromandel locals don’t have to relitigate an anti-mining battle fought and rightfully won many moons ago, that’d be great. But the honest and broader answer is no, because it will not solve the problem that we face as a country under this administration.

And that is that New Zealand royally lacks an economic vision fit for the 21st century and a world facing a climate crisis. The mining plans are just a symptom of a very unseemly disease.

John Key et all seem to have nothing to offer us beyond a reversion to 19th century thinking and a focus on extractive industries. The schedule 4 plans are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the Government’s hopes for a fossil fuel boom. It’s no exaggeration to say we are facing a new era of coal under this Government, at a time when the world is moving to find alternatives due to climate change.

Here’s some maths. Skip it if it bores you, but it’s worth considering. Total in situ coal reserves in New Zealand are estimated at around 15 billion tonnes of which, approximately nine billion tonnes is judged to be economically recoverable. Recoverable lignite deposits are estimated at over six billion tonnes. (Lignite is the cheapest, dirtiest , nastiest form of coal there is.) Sub-bituminous and bituminous in-ground resources are about 3.5 billion tonnes, although there is some uncertainty how much of this is recoverable.

Assuming we tap into this amount of coal and use it for energy (arguably Gerry’s idea of a wet dream) it will lead to total carbon dioxide emissions of 12.75 billion tonnes, over two times the annual CO2 emissions of the USA.

Half way through its first term, Key’s Government is thinking Jurassically. And the electorate is understandably freaking out. Brownlee’s response to the massive anti-mining march turnout was to observe that not all the 40,000 plus people in attendance were protesting against the mining proposals. He observed that placards about climate change and other matters were also waved ‘and it may have been a good opportunity for people to air various different grievances’. Nice to see him finally get something right.

Part of the current schedule four plans involve digging up 3,000ha of the stunning Paparoa National Park, for coal to be burned right here in clean green New Zealand. Tourists [read: a core component of New Zealand’s income stream] spoken to on the cusp of the park were non-plussed.
Plans to mine former conservation land in Central Otago for dirty lignite coal are also drawing opposition but again, the project is just an indicator of a disease eating 100% Pure New Zealand alive.

nzcoalBoth inside outside of the National Parks and conservation lands, the Government’s approach to fossil fuel mining looks set to blow out New Zealand’s emissions, undermine our clean, green reputation and leave the taxpayer holding the carbon bill. The current Government’s vision is to race Australia to the bottom of the mine pit increasing our emissions (already 5th worst in the world per capita), and the corresponding financial liabilities. That is the kind of 19th century industrial thinking we used to do before the reality of climate change kicked in.

Is this honestly the best you’ve got Mr Key?

10 comments on “Schedule 4 back-down won’t solve the problem”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    Is this honestly the best you’ve got Mr Key?

    Yes, it’s honestly the best that they’ve got. NACT are a bunch of dinosaurs who instinctively understand that they themselves do not produce wealth. Given this fact they then seek to control what wealth there is in the form of material resources and, of course, people. The control of material resources they will take in the form of government legislation and control of people is through beneficiary bashing, lowering wages and cutting government services while giving themselves even more income through tax cuts.

  2. Bill 2

    “…at a time when the world is moving to find alternatives due to climate change.”

    No it isn’t.

    If it was the there would be a shrinking market for coal (which there isn’t) and a shrinking market for oil (which there isn’t).

    Claiming the intelligent high ground is all well and good…and not difficult in this instance. The world should be moving to find alternatives. Many of us wish that was the case.

    But it isn’t.

    And ascribing such intelligent sensibilities to people who are no more than a pack of fucking ground rubbing bastards ( political leaders and industrialists among others) is to do a dis-service to any notion of intelligence that you, I or others may have and lends a token of credibility to the contemporary garbage and poison that ground rubbers pass off as a trajectory of progress.

    Just saying, like.

    • Kathy 2.1

      The world is moving to find alternatives, but economic and technological change on the scale required takes time, so no, the demand for fossil fuels isn’t going to collapse overnight. Doubtless the highest sales of typewriters were as the earliest word processors came onto the market. Last year investment in green energy overtook investment in fossil fuels for the first time (

  3. Salsy 3

    This is exactly why I think the famous banner “Lock up Brownlie and throw away the Key” works so well. New Zealanders are getting very little value for money with Brownlie, any idiot could come up with mining.

    We need an energy minister who can grasp the concept of sustainability, who understands the future energy needs of the planet, embraces the idea that biofuels can be grown in NZ – and that we can be world leaders in sustainable technologies…

    If anyone needs cheering up though there are some priceless haikus against mining on facebook.

      • Salsy 3.1.1

        Sorry. But the future is not and can not be some fanciful science fiction green upgrade of the present.

        Dont be a Brownlie Bill, theres hope outside the square…

        Your arguement, and the link provided addresses a well known current state of concern about sustainability of biofuels i.e cost of loss of food for 3rd world, loss of rainforest, exposure of peat surface in Indonesia, as well as issues pertaining to unaccounted fossil fuels used in biofuel extraction and production. Hence the need, for the technological investment in Next Generation bio fuels which avoid the negative impacts of deforestation and inefficeint production methods.

        Also, may I encourage you to peep at and article from the Herald a couple of years back.

        • Bill

          “Dont be a Brownlie Bill, theres hope outside the square ”

          On the first point, I’m not.

          On the second point, I agree. With caveats.

          There is no hope for our civilisation. None.

          So running around grasping at techno fixes and so-called green solutions as though they can preserve a version of what we have is delusional and ridiculous. The techno ‘fixes’ and green ‘solutions’ should be pursued, but their limitations fully acknowledged and the lie that they can somehow make everything okay, dropped.

          The hope is for you and for me.

          But only if we acknowledge fully and without reservation the fact that things are about to crash. And come together ( not through any mediating authority with vested interests in perpetuating myths of fiddling at the edges to preserve ‘our ways’) to prepare and plan for a world that will no longer contain many of the the material and psychological touchstones we currently take as almost natural and immutable parts of our lives.

  4. Clarke 4

    This debacle does at least illustrate what a hopelessly incompetent political player Brownlee really is. He’s succeeded in burning significant goodwill for the National Party in a futile gesture that has resulted in a public and humiliating back-down for the government.

    If you wondered why Brownlee seemed so rubbish at managing Parliament’s business – was it some dark and sinister plot that only appeared incompetent? – the verdict is now in: he truly is an idiot.

  5. Wow some venom from Bill.

    Good article. Be interesting to see a wrap-up of what different countries are doing. Denmark is the world’s largest windenergy exporter, what is New Zealand?

    Australia is the world’s largest coal exporter, do we really want to ‘catch up’ to them?

  6. Jum 6

    Did I hear right this evening on the Mary Wilson RNZ programme?

    Stephen Franks commenting, on mining our special lands, that it’s volcanoes and earthquakes that cause damage – not people.

    I can’t quite believe anyone could be so stupid. Every time mankind does anything it affects nature and not in a good way.

    Nature makes changes to nature. It doesn’t damage nature, only mankind’s flimsy structures. And believe me nature has not yet begun to revenge itself on mankind. Unless mankind is stupid enough to kill itself off beforehand.

    The vote for a NAct government is indicative of human masochism.

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