by Catherine Delahunty
On Thursday night, the local community at Mangatawhiri on the Hauraki Plains hosted a public meeting about the Fonterra coal mine proposal in their back yard. Fonterra own the farm where the coal is to be mined in an open cast pit for use in the milk powder processing factories on the plains. No processing will take place in this quiet area, just blasting, dust, and lots of trucks.
Jeanette Fitzsimons explained how people could submit on the proposed Fonterra mine, but Thursday night was also about the bigger picture in terms of coal and its contribution to climate change. Climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger showed us the weather map both globally and nationally and it’s looking ugly. The local drought is bad enough, but Jim gave us a real reminder of the role of coal in climate change and its impacts. Dr Wendy Ring who is a local medical doctor presented on the issues around climate change and new illnesses as well as coal dust and our lungs.
The mine is one of a number of coal mines on the plains and Fonterra is a big consumer of coal. Fonterra claims to be a modern company but they won’t be using wood waste as an alternative, which could gradually replace burning this fossil fuel. It is very disappointing to see the lack of leadership from this industry giant.
Meanwhile the locals are frustrated by the proposal to turn their quiet farms and lifestyle blocks into a noisy industrial zone. They are keen to object but they are in a hard spot. Fonterra can afford experts who will tell us that dust and noise and blasting will all be within international standards and limits. Ask the people in Waihi affected by the open cast mine how well that has worked. A woman told me that she lives right next to the proposed Fonterra mine and her husband is already unwell with lead poisoning. She is deeply worried, as she should be. I told the meeting that the Green Party thinks resource consent conditions should be designed to protect the most vulnerable citizens, but that is not how it works under the law.
So the people of Mangatawhiri are getting organised against the mine with the support of a great group called AK Coal Action. The local marae reminded us that although once they would have supported a mine for jobs it would create, they are now more concerned about future generations.
Keep the coal in the hole!