Nightmare at Nightcaps – a coal mine in town

I never knew what Nightcaps was. Now I know it is a town 45 minutes drive from Invercargill with a coal mining history and some very current problems. Nightcaps have had coal mining since the late 1880s and have experienced tragedy as well as identity through coal mining. Now the community lives with an expanded coal mine which is impacting on residents and they want justice.

Yesterday I spoke to Alana Barrett who has moved out of Nightcaps because she and her daughter both tested high for lead levels. But she mentioned the open cast mine dust contained more heavy metals such as arsenic and boron and that aluminium has been found in the local waterway. So the underground mine turned into an open cast mine right next to the town and the Takitimu mine itself went from producing 13,000 tonnes of coal to producing 170,000 tonnes of coal per year in the last three years. The mine is elevated above the town on District Council land (which makes the consent issues quite interesting) and smoke and dust are ongoing problems.

The company Eastern Corporation of Australia claim to have spent money on sprinklers but the Nightcaps residents are not happy. Contrast this with Gerry Brownlee’s modern and surgical mining claims. The plan is to develop the Southland lignite mines. This is low grade coal and whether they make it into urea or sell it to pollute other countries, none of it helps our tally of greenhouse gas emissions. And we should be listening to the Nightcaps community when they tell us that coal mining is dirty and is making people sick.  On Saturday the Green Party will be supporting the anti mining march in Invercargill because we want to hear from all the Southland communities.

15 Comments Posted

  1. Over the last 3 years I have learnt alot about how permits for Development are issued in NZ.In short the Industrial Fly Ash permit for this site is now permitted for 45,000 tonnes per year.This site is an industrial Ash Dump not a mine?Permits are issued with the applications being accepted with 12 paragraphs of Disclaimers of lnformation by consultants.No prosecution for exceeding of District Plan Rules for any discharge will never be performed.Yes if you declare by mitigation?That you will exceed every District Plan Rules and the councils do not put anything in the Schedule of Conditions.NZ welcomes developments like what
    we had in the 18 century.Oh and there is nothing in our District Plan Rules for Set levels of contaminates for Residential Sections.Developers can put as much rubbish on your land and you have to ‘”suck it up in NZ”.
    Good luck to anyone wanting to by land in Dirty NZ.

  2. Hello, i am aware i am 3 years late but i just came accross this and it’s bull! I was born and raised in nightcaps and never had any issues with lead??? The arsenic rumour was just that, a rumour, brought about by scare mongers who read too much and investigate too little. I am not sure about the aluminium found in the local waterway but even so it is not the water we drink. perhaps you should spend more time researching the places you speak of and less time speculating? just a thought.

  3. I’m not sure if seven people out of 300 residents warrants the term ‘Nightcaps residents’. And another thing, you ought to find out more about your source’s motives as most of the Nightcaps residents consider her a stirrer. As for MistressR’s comments about Ohai, “The town is now derelict, with huge social issues, collapsing houses, no shops and no money since they closed the mines”. Firstly, what are the social issues you are speaking of? Just to clarify. Secondly, most people out there are seasonal workers who did not work in the mines, the mine employed mostly outsiders, and it’s only 7kms away to the nearest shop and I know of many families still out there spending money on their ‘derelict’ homes. They’re not that bad off out there, in fact, it’s a very close knit community which most should be envious of in New Zealand.

  4. Quickest way to get the mines shut down?

    Demand Kiwirail charge a commercial rate of return on the Ngakawau railway branch line.

    It would close immediately, and it has been made clear by the mining companies that without the railway, most of the mines would be uneconomic.

    Of course a whole heap of jobs would go, and there would be a couple of ghost towns, but I am guessing that the Green hatred of mining runs deeper than the love of railway lines and employment in small towns.

  5. Hey Pete, how’re things on the coast? We’ve had some unexpectedly heavy frosts here over the past couple of days. Partial eclipse of the moon tonight too – 11 o’clock – don’t miss it! Clear skies, how lucky we are!
    The Invercargill march against mining was a great event. A very strong showing of people from across the board (as they say). Kevin Hague led the charge along with the Labour MP and Bonnie Soper of Shortland Street fame. The three of them spoke to the crowd at the finish of the march and so did I. Great response from the normally modest Southlanders. The Unite crew were noisy though! Zookeepers afterwards for coffee and talk, of which there was plenty. Dave Kennedy did himself proud with the organising and will be sleeping deeply tonight. 25 people from Riverton. Good effort too.
    If you’ve a care, I’ll post my speech on my blog (click my name to fly straight there 🙂

  6. I get most of my coal from Nightcaps and I know Alanna Barrett, but this is the first I’ve heard of the cancer issue. All we read in the local publications is how many jobs are at stake there.

  7. My wonderful parents-in-law and husband are ex coal miners from Ohai (about 10km from Nightcaps). The town is now derelict, with huge social issues, collapsing houses, no shops and no money since they closed the mines. My in-laws have said that almost every person their age who lived and worked in Ohai have died from cancer, many in their 50’s and 60’s. They were aggressive forms of cancer, and my in laws are very grateful to still be alive. There is surely a link between those high rates of cancer deaths and the lead etc dusting and leaching up their surroundings. Thank you for your support of tomorrow’s march Catherine, I’m very proud of our community and especially ‘sprout’, who has dedicated a huge amount of time and resources to pulling it off!!!
    Mistress R (aka Rachael)

  8. Good luck for tomorrow. Kevin Hague will be there to support you and I want to agree that Murihiku/Southland is a great place under threat and needs more recognition. I hope its not snowing on the march but sounds like spirits are strong! Best wishes from the Coromandel, we know what facing down mining is like but not in freezing weather!

  9. I had the same experience handing out leaflets, people listening politely and thanking me for them. A superb front page article about the march in our Southland Express too.

    We have had a lot of support from local journalists and one even suggested a good slogan for a placard in the middle of an interview “Eeny meany mining no!”

    Robert’s huge lump of coal (he has manufactured) must be our most impressive prop, accompanied by the placard “leave it in the Ground!”

  10. I’m there often enough Catherine (Nightcaps that is) and will ask around.
    Met Phil Goff today in Invercargill. He needs to visit Nightcaps and Mataura, so that he knows where they are and what’s ahead for those towns, Mataura in particular. Can’t help but think many politicians don’t know much about the South. March on Saturday – I was out on the street today, passing out leaflets on the anti-national-park-mining plans and the good folk of Invergiggle (blush) were very interested, had already heard about it and were very supportive. Most noticably, the shopping public were so polite and thankful for the leaflet I gave them!
    Astonishing! Nice. One ex-Aussie miner said he’d be there because, although he saw nothing wrong with mining, the thought of doing it in NZ national parks infuriated him!
    Good day. Talked to Goff about Farmageddon as well. Now he knows!

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