An Environment Court decision against a new proposed West Coast coal mine is a massive win for the climate and biodiversity, says Forest & Bird.
The pivotal ruling is against a new opencast coal mine on a pristine mountaintop at Te Kuha near Westport. (A copy of the decision, as well as photos and drone footage, is available here).
"This is also a victory for New Zealand’s rarest butterfly, the forest ringlet, which has its largest known population at Te Kuha,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki.
“The ruling shows that environmental bottom lines are so important – you can’t offset or compensate your way out of destroying unique landscapes, plants or animals.”
The proposed 150-hectare mine site at Te Kuha on the West Coast contains incredibly rare and important ecosystems and is home to numerous plants and animals at risk or threatened with extinction, such as roroa great spotted kiwi, South Island fernbird, geckos, and 17 plant species including native eyebright.
This case is a significant win for Forest & Bird as it marks its centennial, and the organisation acknowledges the support of the Coal Action Network. The case is Forest and Bird’s challenge of a 2017 resource-consent decision, which had been put on hold while land access issues went through court (see timeline below).
The vast majority of the proposed coal mine site is a local purpose reserve, administered under the Reserves Act by the Buller District Council for water conservation purposes.
The mining company needed three sets of permissions for the mine to go ahead: resource consents; permission to mine public conservation land administered by the Department of Conservation; and permission to mine the public reserve administered by the Buller District Council. It has lost in all three processes.
“This coal mining company has had legal failure after legal failure. They lost in the Supreme Court and they don’t currently have any land access. It’s time for them to withdraw this climate-damaging proposal once and for all,” says Ms Toki.
“Given the strength of the Environment Court’s finding on environmental effects, it seems inevitable any appeal would be another failure.
“In the midst of a twin crisis of biodiversity loss and climate change, New Zealand should not have been digging up kiwi habitat for opencast coal mines.”
Forest & Bird has been calling for an end to new or expanded coal mines since 2021, the same year that the International Energy Agency called for an immediate end to fossil fuel development.
“What we really need is a clear signal from Government, so that charities like ours don’t have to spend years in court battling coal mining companies,” Ms Toki says.
“This decision is a step towards fewer floods, lower storm intensity and less sea level rise. For a safe climate, we urgently need to stop all new coal mines.”
- Buller District Council gives permission for open cast mine in water conservation reserve, but withdraws that decision after challenge from Forest & Bird
- Resource Consent hearing held in Westport
- Mining company seeks High Court declaration that Crown Minerals Act trumps Reserves Act
- Jacinda Ardern announces no new mines on conservation land in Speech from the Throne
- Mining company granted resource consents
- Forest & Bird appeals resource consents to Environment Court
- Department of Conservation joins Environment Court appeal against resource consents
- High Court decides for mining company on Reserves Act, Forest & Bird appeals
- Government declines access to 12ha of conservation land for mine
- Forest & Bird wins on Reserves Act in Court of Appeal, mining company appeals
- Hearing in Supreme Court on Reserves Act
- Mining company loses in High Court, with Government decision denying access to conservation land for mine upheld.
- Mining company loses in Environment Court