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logos of WWF, Generation Zero, 350 Aotearoa, Coal Action Aotearoa, Parents for climate action, school strike 4 climate & Forest & Bird

Joint press release from Forest & Bird Youth, Forest & Bird, Greenpeace Aotearoa, 350 Aotearoa, Generation Zero, WWF-New Zealand, Coal Action Network Aotearoa, School Strike 4 Climate NZ, and Parents for Climate Aotearoa.

Environmental NGOs wrote to Southland District Council yesterday expressing deep concern over the Council’s decision to grant an access arrangement to New Brighton Collieries Limited (NBCL), an overseas owned company, for coal exploration in the Ohai forestry area.

The letter urges the Southland District Council to reverse their decision and decline the access arrangement sought by NBCL. It also puts forward a courageous vision for Southland, proposing a decline from coal and a move towards clean energy alternatives.

Together the organisations say:
It is absolutely inappropriate for Aotearoa New Zealand to continue exploring for coal in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency. We strongly believe that Southland, and Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole, should undertake a just transition towards sustainable energy methods and away from fossil fuels, in a way which ensures that both people and nature benefit.

Mining is often touted as being an important part of the local Southland economy, including by Southland District Council officers. However, despite coal mines being a prominent feature of Southland’s landscape, the Ohai-Nightcaps area has a deprivation index of eight, where ten is the worst. The money from mining does not demonstrably help local people, and if NBCL is granted mining consent, an overseas owned company will profit off the negative impact of mining.

Coal contributes directly to the climate crisis through creating emissions, as well as being responsible for furthering other emission-heavy parts of our society. For example, coal is still used by Fonterra in its boilers. Additionally, approving exploration for coal threatens Aotearoa’s endangered native species. SDC can and must show leadership by speeding up the transition away from coal rather than enabling a continued reliance.

The climate and biodiversity crises threaten future generations. Young people are scared about what their lives will look like in fifty years. We are calling on the Council to recognise the contribution that further coal exploration will have to these intergenerational threats, and agree that young people deserve a future which is not threatened by sea level rise, biodiversity loss and extreme weather events.

Additionally, it is deeply worrying that the Council has refused to undertake genuine community consultation on the decision to approve NBCL’s access arrangement. The decision to allow further exploration has an immediate impact on community members’ lives, and they deserve the chance to have their voice heard.

In the recently released advice from the Climate Change Commission to the Government, the Commission highlights the importance of acting now to reduce our emissions, “Ināia tonu nei – the time is now.”

By making a planned, just transition away from high-emissions activities such as coal extraction and use today, we can reduce the burden on our communities from the cost of inaction tomorrow. We have known for decades that the coal industry does not have a place in a low-emissions, sustainable future, and we have a responsibility to workers, their families and our communities in Southland to manage a decline from coal towards clean energy alternatives.

We are calling on the Council to reverse their decision, as it is unacceptable to jeopardise the futures of both our people and our planet under the guise of economic gain. We are also asking members of the public to write to the SDC Mayor and Councillors and express their concern.

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