With so much attention on climate change, and such a lack of concern, urgency and commitment to action from the current Tory government you would think it would be something labour would be working hard on, and be busy drafting detailed policy and vocally demanding action be taken. The Copenhagen climate summit was a cop out, divided between those that wanted an ambitious deal and emissions reductions and the Tim Groser’s of the world that wanted what was best for various vested interests such as coal corporations and agricultural giants like Fonterra. Canada echoed this position, by pushing for Tar Sands to be mined and burnt rather than pushing for emissions reduction and a fair deal. Tuvalu seemed to be pushed off a cliff.
Where does Labour stand when it comes to local climate issues in Aotearoa? Take mining and coal for example: on the one hand Labour is shocked and appalled by the suggestion of public conservation land being opened up to the friends of Gerry ‘Sexycoal’ Brownlee, yet they are vague when it comes to other matters like the proposed mine in the Waimangaroa Valley (Happy Valley), which is a pristine wilderness area with conservation values. It has been pointed out by those that champion the views of coal lobbyists like Don Elder that Chris Carter supported the Cypress Mine going ahead and signed off the destruction of Mount Augustus nearby.
So a Conservation minister supported mountaintop removal mining so coal could be sent to China, sounds rather similar to the position taken by the surprise Tory Conservation minister and former WTO trade negotiator, Tim Groser. While it was a surprise Tim Groser was given the Conservation minister role (both to himself and the NZ public), it is no surprise where he and Gerry Brownlee sit when it comes to issues like opening up public land to mining interests. Tim Groser is both Conservation minister and trade minister, and additionally has the role of climate negotiator and assistant climate minister.. He wants to open up conservation land to foreign mining interests to see more coal etc, and is conservation minister, a role which requires he protect public conservation land… Conflict of interest?
While Nick Smith the climate minister says he supports sending coal to China and India because if we don’t somebody else will, what does the possible next climate minister, Charles Chauvel say? When he was Conservation minister, Chris Carter acted like a lobbyist for SOE and state mining corporation, Solid Energy. Even when Solid Energy was caught using spies to try to get the upper hand against public opposition from environmentalists, Labour stood behind Solid Energy and their CEO, Don Elder who hired Thompson and Clark and ignored government directives from Trevor Mallard, the then SOE minister.
David Parker put Don Elder in his place and called his bluff at the annual power conference in Auckland and Chris Trotter wrote an article on Labour and the Save Happy Valley campaign against a mine getting the go ahead in the Waimangaroa Valley. All in all Labour seems to have an unclear position when it comes to climate change and coal, an unclear position on its commitment to emissions reductions, what an appropriate target should be and what value it places on conservation land.
Taking a stand against the Cypress Mine going ahead in the pristine wilderness of the Waimangaroa Valley on the West Coast would be a good start for labour, if it wants to be seen as taking conservation and climate issues seriously.
A new hydro scheme has just been granted approval down from the Stockton Mine, that will both provide renewable energy and clean up some of the polluted Ngakawau River and the Acid Mine Drainage that comes from the Stockton Mine. This small hydro project is the kind of fresh thinking that could get Aotearoa moving on climate change, and also provide a just transition to a low carbon economy.
Information abour the hydro development is available here: www.hydrodevelopments.co.nz
Information about the Waimangaroa Valley and photos are available here: www.savehappyvalley.org.nz