30 April 2010

Mining submissions deadline extended

Ministers Brownlee and Wilkinson have changed the closing date for submissions on their proposal to remove 7,000 hectares of conservation land from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 so that they are not protected from mining.

Submissions can be made until 5.00pm Wednesday 26 May 2010.

Kate Wilkinson notes that 14,000 submissions have been received.

Short on time in your busy life? Copy and paste my handy template submissions into an email addressed to schedule4@med.govt.nz.

Shorter submission 642 words.

Longer submission 2080 words.

Toaster CO2 Widget

This widget is a bit more funky.



Way cool!

Carbon Dioxide concentration

I am trialling some code that embeds a widget displaying the lates update of the current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Current CO2 level in the atmosphere




Yeah thats pretty cool

28 April 2010

ECAN Commissioners again

One of the other new ECAN Commissioners is David Bedford who is Chairman of Enterprise North Canterbury.

So where in the Canterbury water politics spectrum do David Bedford and Enterprise North Canterbury fit in?

According to its web site, Enterprise North Canterbury is a not-for- profit trust acting as the economic development agency for the Waimakariri and Hurunui District Councils. One of its key objectives is "to promote and facilitate land-use intensification in the region...(such as the) Hurunui Water Project which Enterprise North Canterbury helped establish.

Enterprise North Canterbury was part of a working group consisting of the Hurunui Irrigation and Power Trust, MainPower, Ngai Tahu Properties and Eskhead Station, which came up with the Hurunui River/Lake Taylor dam and water storage proposal in April 2006.

This working group recieved $590,000 from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Sustainable Farming Fund and Enterprise North Canterbury must have supported them as it contributed its postal address.

As National Business Review's Chris Hutchings says; the Environment Canterbury special legislation "represents a victory for Irrigation NZ and rural interests seeking control of the region’s waterways for irrigation projects involving the Hurunui, Rakaia, Waimakariri and other main rivers."

The Hurunui Water Project is going to be the main beneficiary of the special legislation as it cancels Fish and Game and Whitewater NZ's right to appeal their Hurunui River water conservation order application to the Environment Court. Remember, success for the water conservation order application would prevent the Hurunui Water Project, who already have had their consent applications notified, from damming the Hurunui River at Lake Sumner.

But the Government has moved the goalposts on the water conservation order.

Whitewater NZ is furious.

So Commissioner Bedford will be firmly in the pro-irrigation camp. I wonder if he will have the sense to declare a conflict of interest and excuse himself from any discussions the ECAN Commissioners have on the Hurunui River water conservation order?

Its also a little odd that Irrigation New Zealand's press release applauding Bedford's appointment does not mention the Hurunui Water Project Connection.

23 April 2010

Campbell Live on Environment Canterbury

How cool is this? Using a widget on the TV3 website I posted this link of Campbell Live's item on Environment Canterbury. Quite funny that John Campbell (Wellington College Old Boy) said "This is why you should give a dam about Environment Canterbury.

Govt labelled 'dictatorship' after kicking out elected reps - Campbell Live - Video - 3 News

Posted using ShareThis

Environment Canterbury's New Commissioners

Nick Smith and Rodney Hide have announced the other commissioners who will join Dame Margaret Bazley in running Environment Canterbury for the next three years.

They state "The Government has selected experienced and capable commissioners with first-class public service, governance, judicial and business skills. We have ensured a balance of agricultural, environmental and electricity expertise"

"The Commissioners are: Dame Margaret Bazley (Chair), Hon. David Caygill (Deputy Chair), David Bedford, Donald Couch, Tom Lambie, Professor Peter Skelton, Rex Williams."

Professor and former Environment Court Judge Peter Skelton will be welcomed because of his highly relevant judicial and professional background. He has acted as an Ecan hearings panel member for the Lower Waitaki catchment consents. He has also given advice and run RMA training for Ecan staff.

Tom Lambie, the former President of Federated Farmers, and South Canterbury organic dairy farmer and consent holder, is also known to Environment Canterbury. In particular, by the Enforcement staff, as he received an infringement notice fine of $750 in February 2003 for an unlawful discharge of dairy shed effluent.

Have a look at the list of infringement notices on page 16 of Environment Canterbury's Enforcement Report of 2003.

R03-37

19 April 2010

Canterbury water conservation orders

A commenter asks Claire Browning at the Pundit blog:
"Does the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act 2010) mean that the new ECan can bypass the process so that rights to access water in the Hurunui can be granted regardless of anyone else's needs or concerns?"

No the special legislation doesn't bypass the process, it completely rewrites the process!

Specifically, it inverts the old decision making criteria so that development of water resources is more important in the decison on a WCO than preserving rivers in their natural state.

In a tribunal decision on a WCO (under Section 207 of the RMA) environmental criteria ("outstanding amenity or intrinsic values which are afforded by waters in their natural state" s 199 RMA) have predominance over resource development criteria, which were still a matter the tribunal "shall also have regard to" (S 207(b)).

The Hurunui River WCO application, even though it was applied for and had it's tribunal stage prior to the Ecan Act, is now to be decided by the new Ecan/Dame Margaret. See Section 46 of "the Ecan Act".

Dame Margaret/Ecan's decision on the Hurunui WCO is to guided by Section 50 of "the Ecan Act"

The decision must have particular regard to the vision and principles of the Canterbury Water Managment Strategy (S 50(2)(a)(ii). The "vision" is now Schedule 1 to the Ecan Act.

I am afraid when I see the "vision and principles of the CWMS", it just seems a rehash of "resource management" apple pie matters, just like sections 5, 6 and 7 of the RMA.

The decision must also have particular regard to the old WCO criteria; "outstanding amenity or intrinsic values that are afforded by waters in their natural state" (S 50(2)(a)(i) and S 50(3)(a)).

But the decision must be made foremostly "subject to Part 2 of the RMA" (S 50(2)). That wording is from s 104 of the RMA (the section about how to consider the granting of resource consents). It means that ultimately the decision on a WCO should 'promote sustainable management' of resources as defined by court interpretations of Section 5 of the RMA. Just like a consent decision.

The MfE and Court-approved interpretation of "sustainable management" is the "broad overall judgment" weighing all matters. In other words, it is a balancing exercise. So what will this sort of decision look like in practice?

I suggest it will look exactly like the recent decision to grant consents to dam the Mokihinui River within a conservation area. See the article Watchdogs explain giving dam go-ahead, 8 April 2010 in the Herald.

The three-person hearing panel made a split 2 vs 1 decision to grant the consents. The civil engineer and the west coast councillor outvoted the specialist freshwater ecologist, who considered the dam should not go ahead due to significant adverse effects on freshwater ecosystems.

We may ask "how did the Hearing Panel "have regard to" the adverse effects of the dam on freshwater ecosystems?". The answer is that one of the three panel members recognised and documented the importance of the freshwater ecology in their decision and the other two considered the instream values worth sacrificing for the power.

To me that is a perfect example of what is wrong with the "broad overall judgment" approach to sustainable management It is "weak sustainability" writ large.

The definitions section of the Ecan Act also defines the term 'WCO application' to include an application to revoke or vary an existing WCO. Applying to revoke or vary a WCO is provided for in S 216 of the RMA. But there is a high threshhold as it's still the same S 207 decision-making criteria "outstanding amenity or intrinsic values" of water in it's natural state".

The Majac Trust (the Talley family) tried to vary the Buller River WCO to allow hydro dam on the Gowan River. That application was declined.

The Ecan Act now means that Canterbury's WCOs, which were established against criteria of "outstanding intrinsic values", can now be varied or revoked by appications that will be considered against a criteria of fairly weak sustainability.

It is no wonder Chris Hutchings of the NBR decribes the Ecan Act as a major victory for the irrigators.

14 April 2010

Short No Mining Submission

As I was saying the other day, I felt my submission opposing mining in the high-quality Schedule 4 conservation areas, was too long.

Here is my shorter version, weighing in at 642 words.

Schedule 4 stock-take
(Email: schedule4@med.govt.nz)
Ministry of Economic Development
PO Box 1473
Wellington 6140

Submission on Schedule 4 stock-take discussion document

Dear Sir/Madam,
Please accept this submission in response to your notice of 22 March 2010.
Q1 On the areas proposed for removal from Schedule 4:
I oppose the proposal to remove the suggested conservation areas from Schedule 4 and therefore remove their protection from mining because:
1.Mining will harm biodiversity. It will reduce the habitats of New Zealand's endemic species, many of which are endangered, and make range contraction and species decline more likely.
2.Mining will involve removal of mature native forest. This deforestation and further coal mining will release additional volumes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
3.Mining will increase the pollution of freshwater environments caused by acid mine drainage.
4.Mining involves significant earthworks and roading and tailings dams. These are frequently not adequately managed to prevent excess nutrient-rich sedimentation running off into streams and other natural freshwater ecosystems. This will impose further adverse cumulative effects (in conjunction with intensive agricultural run-off) on the already declining water quality in New Zealand's rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries.
5.Mining will conflict with recreational use and scenic values of the conservation areas.
6.Mining is a destructive, damaging and exploitative land use that is completely inconsistent with the statutory conservation purpose for which these conservation areas are held.
7.Allowing additional mining in conservation areas detracts from New Zealand's international image and makes our marketing of tourism and our exports appear hypocritical, especially in the eyes of our competitors and in the view of environmentally conscious consumers in the OECD countries.

Q2 On the areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4:
I support the addition of the listed protected areas to Schedule 4.
I also request that all places that match the land classifications listed in Schedule 4 should be automatically added to Schedule 4 when gazetted to ensure protection from mining.

Q3 On the assessment of areas:

For all areas I consider that the environmental and conservation values (biodiversity, native species habitat, wildlife, cultural, recreational, amenity, scenic, carbon sequestration) outweigh the highly speculative economic values ascribed to the minerals that these areas are alleged to have.

Q4 On the proposal to further investigate the mineral potential of some areas:
I oppose this proposal. I oppose subsidising the minerals industry with $4 million of taxpayers’ money to investigate the mineral potential in New Zealand's conservation areas.

Q5 On a new contestable conservation fund:

I completely oppose forming this fund. Conservation of biodiversity is an important enough matter to have adequate funding without having to be “in debt” to mining within conservation areas. Conservation outcomes can be best enhanced by reversing the $50million cut (over three years) in the Department of Conservation’s budget.
The tying of conservation funding to mining and the “greenwashing” of this proposal would further undermine New Zealand's current international reputation for excellent management of biodiversity and conservation areas.

Q6 On approval of access arrangements:
I oppose adding the approval of the Minister of Energy and Resources to the access decisions of the Minister of Conservation because this would introduce energy, economic and mineral considerations into the Ministerial decision on granting mining access arrangements to conservation areas.
I support the status quo where the Minister of Conservation must consider the statutory land management purposes and land management plans and the potential adverse effects of access against conservation purposes.

In summary, I remain unconvinced by the assertion that mining in conservation areas can be environmentally responsible.
Yours faithfully,

12 April 2010

Storms of my grandchildren

"Storms of my grandchildren", the book by James Hansen that I ordered via Fish pond arrived today. Great!

Here is the promotional video for the book.

11 April 2010

My submission on Schedule 4 stock-take discussion document

Here is my submission. It is quite long. I may prepare a shorter version too.

Schedule 4 stock-take
(Email: schedule4@med.govt.nz)
Ministry of Economic Development
PO Box 1473
Wellington 6140

Submission on Schedule 4 stock-take discussion document

Dear Sir/Madam,
Please accept this submission in response to your notice of 22 March 2010.

Q1 On the areas proposed for removal from Schedule 4:
Section 7 of the discussion paper sets out the areas proposed for removal from Schedule 4. Do you think these areas should be removed from Schedule 4 so that applications for exploration and mining activity can be considered on a case-by-case basis? Yes or No? And why? (Your response may be in relation to any one or more of the areas discussed. Please clearly identify the area(s) to which your response relates.)

No
I oppose the proposal to remove the conservation areas from Schedule 4 and therefore from protection from mining. I oppose the proposals to remove the suggested areas from Schedule 4 because:
1.Mining will harm biodiversity. It will reduce the habitats of New Zealand's endemic species, many of which are endangered, and make range contraction and species decline more likely.
2.Mining will involve removal of mature native forest which will release additional volumes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
3.Mining will increase the pollution of freshwater environments caused by acid mine drainage.
4.Mining involves significant earthworks and roading and tailings dams. These are frequently not adequately managed to prevent excess nutrient-rich sedimentation running off into streams and other natural freshwater ecosystems. This will impose further adverse cumulative effects (in conjunction with intensive agricultural run-off) on the already declining water quality in New Zealand's rivers, streams, lakes and estuaries.
5.Mining will conflict with recreational use and scenic values of the conservation areas.
6.Mining is a destructive, damaging and exploitative land use that is completely inconsistent with the statutory conservation purpose for which these conservation areas are held.
7.Allowing additional mining in conservation areas detracts from New Zealand's international image and makes our marketing of tourism and our exports appear hypocritical, especially in the eyes of our competitors and in the view of environmentally conscious consumers in the OECD countries.

The Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park
The proposal includes taking 3,000 hectares of native lowland forest near Inangahua out of north-eastern Paparua National Park to allow coal mining.
According to the Ministry of Economic Development, 83% of NZ's coal production in 2008 came from opencast mines. It appears highly likely that any new Inangahua coal mine would be opencast. Opencast mining is associated with the most severe adverse environmental effects. Mr Brownlee has stated that opencast mines cannot be ruled out in areas removed from Schedule 4.
Such coal mining is the worst possible reason to justify removing this lowland forest classified as national park from Schedule 4. James Hansen of NASA has let us all know that atmospheric science is absolutely clear that the world needs to urgently stop mining and burning coal if we are to stop the warming effect of more carbon dioxide getting in the atmosphere.
New Zealand has obligations under the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol to actively reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. It is completely contrary to these goals to be proposing removal of protection from mining from the Inangahua sector of Paparoa National Park when the prospective mineral is coal, the most carbon-emission-intensive fossil fuel.
I also oppose removal of this area because of the adverse effects on biodiversity.
o Otahu Ecological Area and Parakawai Geological Area in the Coromandel
o The other seven areas in the Coromandel Peninsula totalling 2,574 hectares
o Te Ahumata Plateau on Great Barrier Island
I oppose removal of these areas from Schedule 4 because of the adverse effects on biodiversity and native species and habitats.

Q2 On the areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4:
Section 8 of the discussion paper sets out the areas proposed for addition to Schedule 4. Do you agree with the proposal to add these areas to Schedule 4? Yes or No? And why? (Your response may be in relation to any one or more of the areas discussed. Please clearly identify the area(s) to which your response relates.)

Yes.
I support the addition of the listed protected areas to Schedule 4.
I also request that all places that match the land classifications listed in Schedule 4 should be automatically added to Schedule 4 when gazetted to ensure protection from mining. In that way all new marine reserves, national parks, nature reserves, scientific reserves, wilderness areas, wildlife sanctuaries, internationally significant wetlands and any additions to these areas will be protected from mining.
I also request that all conservation areas and areas such as national reserves such as Lewis Pass; all of our World Heritage areas (Te Wahipounamu, Tongariro and the Sub-Antarctic islands), and all ecological areas are added to Schedule 4.

Q3 On the assessment of areas:
The assessment of areas covered by Schedule 4 and those proposed for addition is outlined in sections 7 and 8 of this document and Appendices 1 and 2.
(a) What are your views on the assessment of the various values (conservation, cultural, tourism and recreation, mineral, other) of the land areas discussed?
For all areas I consider that the environmental and conservation values (biodiversity, native species habitat, wildlife, cultural, recreational, amenity, scenic, carbon sequestration) outweigh the highly speculative economic values ascribed to the minerals that these areas are alleged to have.
(b) Do you have any additional information that may be important for Ministers to make their decisions?
The Ministers need to be more aware of how unacceptable their proposal is to the New Zealand ethic of conservation and recreation.

Q4 On the proposal to further investigate the mineral potential of some areas:
The Government is carrying out a research and investigation programme on the mineral potential of areas with significant mineral potential over the next nine months. Areas include the Coromandel, parts of Paparoa National Park and Rakiura National Park, and a number of non-Schedule 4 areas.
I oppose this proposal. I oppose subsidising the minerals industry with $4 million of taxpayers’ money to investigate the mineral potential in New Zealand's conservation areas. Public conservation lands, especially Schedule 4 areas such as National Parks, belong to the people of Aotearoa and for conservation of indigenous biodiversity, recreation and tourism, not mining. Conservation areas should remain protected now and for future generations.

Q4(a) Do you have any comments on the type of information that would be the most useful to mineral investors?

I suggest the most useful information for mineral investors would be anything that informs them about the importance of the conservation of New Zealand's indigenous biodiversity and the enjoyment thousands of New Zealanders get from conservation areas. I also suggest a copy of James Hansen's book on the science of anthropogenic global warming “The Storms of my Grandchildren”.

Q5 On a new contestable conservation fund:
Section 9 describes a proposed contestable conservation fund the Government proposes to establish, which would be made up of a percentage of the money the Crown receives from minerals (except petroleum) from public conservation areas.
(a) A broad objective, to enhance conservation outcomes for New Zealand, is proposed for the fund. Do you agree with the proposed objective?

No
I completely oppose forming this fund. Conservation of biodiversity is an important enough matter to have adequate funding without having to be “in debt” to mining within conservation areas. Conservation outcomes can be best enhanced by reversing the $50million cut (over three years) in the Department of Conservation’s budget.
This fund if established would create perverse incentives. It would have the effect of being a “moral hazard” for the Minister of Conservation which may inappropriately influence her decisions on mining access.
It would give the minerals industry excellent public relations opportunities for “greenwashing” their environmentally harmful activities. The tying of conservation funding to mining and the “greenwashing” aspect of this proposal would further undermine New Zealand's current international reputation for excellent management of biodiversity and conservation areas.
(e) Do you have any other comments that might help the Government to make decisions on a new conservation fund?
Yes, please do not proceed with this inappropriate idea.

Q6 On approval of access arrangements:
In section 6 it is proposed that the joint approval of the land-holding Minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources be required for an access arrangement on Crown land for mineral exploration or development. Do you think this is appropriate? Why or why not?

No.
I oppose this idea because this would introduce energy, economic and mineral considerations into the Ministerial decision on granting mining access arrangements to conservation areas.
I support the status quo where the Minister of Conservation must consider the statutory land management purposes and land management plans and the potential adverse effects of access under Section 61(2)(a) to (e) of the Crown Mineral Act 1991.
The statutory land management purpose of conservation land is of course conservation: “the preservation and protection of natural and historic resources for the purpose of maintaining their intrinsic values, providing for their appreciation and recreational enjoyment by the public, and safeguarding the options of future generations.”
That purpose should be the primary consideration of the Minister of Conservation in deciding an access agreement. A Minister with a focus on energy and resource development is a completely inappropriate decision-maker for mining access to areas managed for the purpose of conservation.

Q7 On any other issues:
Do you have any further suggestions or comments on what has been said in this document?

Credibility of the 'rational' debate on 'environmentally-responsible' mining
Rod Oram has recently written on the mining issue in the Sunday Star Times of 28 March 2010 (http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/business/3512763/New-Zealand-stuck-between-rocky-riches-and-hard-truths).
I recall Mr Oram telling National Radio some months ago that he was in favour of doing a stocktake of mineral-rich conservation areas and having a reasoned debate on environmentally-responsible mining and value-added processing in NZ of the minerals. Oram says he used to think:
"We could be leaders in environmentally responsible mining, the science around it and the high-value downstream products and services flowing from it. Then we could prove that the economy and environment, treated well, can enhance each other."
However, Oram now says he has changed his mind because of the divisive and adversarial way Government Ministers have pushed the proposal and the poorly researched sound-bite analysis they have provided in support of the proposal.
For example, Oram considers that the National Party could have transparently started the debate at the 2008 election by outlining the proposal then. Instead it was deliberately vague about its mining intentions. So there is no real electoral mandate for the proposal.
Also, Oram considers the sum of $194 billion, the estimated total mineral value, is so 'back of the envelope' that it is not a rational basis for any debate on weighing up the costs, risk and benefits of additional mining. Oram considers this is because the Minister of Energy and Resources only takes advice from mining industry insiders.
Oram also thinks that claims of 'surgical' mining have not been credibly backed up by real examples. So he concludes that the assertions that environmental impacts will be minimal and tourism will not be harmed are not credible.
If you cannot convince Rod Oram that you can credibly conduct a reasoned debate on environmentally-responsible mining and value-added mineral processing, then you certainly can't convince me.

Credibility of mining licences without resource consents
On 27 October 2009 the Parliamentary Commissioner Dr Jan Wright released the report “Stockton revisited: The mine and regulatory minefield”. In that report she notes there are 111 old mining licences that operate legally without resource consents as they were issued before the commencement of the Resource Management Act 1991.
Dr Wright made a recommendation to the Government that some action was needed to ensure these 111 old mining licences are required to obtain resource consents that have up to date environmental monitoring and mitigation conditions.
As far as I am aware, the Government's mining plans do not include any response to Dr Wright's recommendation. The Government and Ministry of Economic Development appear to have ignored her report.
If the Government was genuinely concerned about ensuring that mining was conducted with environmental responsibility, the Government would have acted on Dr Wright’s recommendation. The lack of action further undermines the Government's environmental credibility in the Schedule 4 stocktake exercise.
I remain unconvinced by the assertion that mining in conservation areas can be environmentally responsible.

10 April 2010

Wilderness asks Should we mine?

I usually enjoy having a look through a copy of the outdoor recreation-oriented magazine Wilderness.

The March 2010 edition included an article titled 'Should we mine?' by one Paul Hersey.

That title is fairly indicative. I found it to be verbose "middle-way" waffle tentatively suggesting that trampers and climbers could compromise on mining within National Parks. Hersey starts this in his second sentence: "Maybe MP Gerry Brownlee has it right when he states that mining can be done efficiently and with a minimal environmental impact on protected lands."

I hate this sort of contrarian concern troll compromise approach bullshit. As Gary Taylor of the Environmental Defence Society said recently, 'compromise' with mining is pretty useless for conservation, as "Victories are temporary and defeats are permanent".

So I wrote a letter to the Editor of Wilderness.

Dear Sir,
In response to Paul Hersey's article 'Should we mine?' in the March 2010 edition, I will try not to assassinate him and I will try to debate rationally whether there is some middle way where "mining can be done efficiently with a minimum enironmental impact".
However, to look at the middle ground, I will borrow someone else's ideas - those of business commentator, Rod Oram, not someone we are likely to meet in a tramping hut or handing out anti-mining postcards.

Rod Oram has recently written on the mining issue in the Sunday Star Times of 28 March 2010 (http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/business/3512763/New-Zealand-stuck-between-rocky-riches-and-hard-truths).

I recall Oram telling National Radio some months ago that he was in favour of doing a stocktake of mineral-rich conservation areas and having a reasoned debate on environmentally-responsible mining and value-added processing in NZ of the minerals.

Oram says he used to think:
"We could be leaders in environmentally responsible mining, the science around it and the high-value downstream products and services flowing from it. Then we could prove that the economy and environment, treated well, can enhance each other."

However, Oram now says he has changed his mind because of the divisive and adversarial way Government Ministers have pushed the proposal and the poorly researched sound-bite analysis they have provided in support of the proposal.

For example, Oram considers that National could have transparently started the debate at the 2008 election by outlining the proposal then. Instead it was deliberately vague about its mining intentions. So there is no real electoral mandate for the proposal.

Also, the estimated total mineral value, $194 billion, is so 'back of the envelope' that it is not a rational basis for any debate on weighing up the costs, risk and benefits of additional mining. Oram considers this is because Brownlee only takes advice from mining industry insiders.

Oram also thinks that claims of 'surgical' mining have not been credibly backed up by real examples. So he concludes that the assertions that environmental impacts will be minimal and tourism will not be harmed are not credible.

So the middle ground on the mining issue has already gone.

So that really only leaves the 'greener' than middle view espoused by Paul Hersey's postcard-carrying friend. This is New Zealand's traditional conservation politics favouring protection of conservation areas and opposition to threats to conservation areas. After all, it is such conservation advocacy that achieved legal protection for our national parks in the first place.

Ultimately, the protection of native species and their habitats (and the ecosystem services provided to us such as water quality) should drive the decision on allowing more mining in conservation areas. And so should climate change.

The proposal includes taking 3,000 hectares of native lowland forest near Inangahua out of north-eastern Paparua National Park to allow coal mining. According to the Ministry of Economic Development, 83% of NZ's coal production in 2008 came from open-cast mines. It is therefore highly likely that any new Inangahua coal mine would be open-cast.
And remember, James Hansen of NASA says we need to leave coal in the ground to stop the warming effect of more carbon dioxide getting in the atmosphere.

I think we need to be very clear about this issue. There is no middle way on the Government's proposal for more mining in conservation areas. It needs to be strongly opposed. I encourage all Wilderness readers to send a brief submission to the Ministry of Economic Development opposing the mining proposal.

09 April 2010

Submission guides for 'No Mining' in Schedule 4 conservation areas

The Government's conservation mining proposal, released on 22 March 2010, is to remove absolute protection from mining from 7,058 hectares of conservation areas listed in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991.

So that the Minister of Conservation may (or more likely will) approve mining on a case-by-case basis under Section 61(2) of the Crown Minerals Act. Just like Chris Carter did with Pike River Coal.

The various ENGOs have web forms and guides to help making a submission. And submissions close on 5.00pm on Tuesday 4 May 2010.

The Greens have a good guide on how to make a submission opposing further mining in the 'Schedule 4' conservation areas.

There is also a PDF guide.

Forest and Bird have a quick email submission form

Greenpeace Aotearoa also have a quick email submission form

The Ministry of Economic Development also have a web-based submission form

However, the Ministry's form is structured as a list of questions, some of which are a bit leading. For example,
"Q4(a) Do you have any comments on the type of information that would be the most useful to mineral investors?
Yeah, read a book about getting a life!

Q4(b) Are there any particular areas that the Government should consider including in its investigation programme?".
Yeah, the rest of New Zealand that isn't conservation land!

I have started my submission. I usually wonder for these sort of processes whether I should just keep it short and brief and to the point. I really do doubt the Government's intention to take much notice of them. In that case, it's just a numbers game and we should just fire off the Greenpeace web form email. We will see.

08 April 2010

James E. Hansen wins Sophie Prize


My favourite climate scientist, James Hansen, has won a Sophie Prize.
I will borrow some text (and the photo) .
Dr. James E. Hansen is an outstanding scientist with numerous scientific articles published in high-ranking journals. His conscience, and later his role as a “concerned grandfather”, has committed him to combine his research with political activism based on personal conviction. This has led him to participate in political demonstrations against coal mining, and has made him testify in court in defence of demonstrators using civil disobedience to stop the building of new coal-fired power plants in the UK. In 2009 he published the book 'Storms Of My Grandchildren' - The truth about the coming climate catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity.
Apparently;
The Sophie Prize is awarded to one or several persons, or an organisation, which has created awareness of alternatives to modern-day development and/or initiated such alternatives in a pioneering or particularly inventive manner. The Sophie Prize is an annual environment and sustainable development prize (US$ 100.000). This is the thirteenth time it has been awarded. The prize was established in 1997 by the author Jostein Gaarder and Siri Dannevig.


There is a prize statement and there is a photo gallery.

02 April 2010

James Hansen on Letterman

I have just finished reading the book Storms of my Grandchildren by NASA scientist James Hansen.

I found it inspirational. For example on page 73, chapter 9 'An honest effective plan'.

A simple clear urgent conclusion leaped out from our research on the appropriate target level of atmospheric carbon dioxide: Coal emissions must be phased out as rapidly as possible or global climate disasters will be a dead certainty.


Here is a Youtube clip of Hansen talking to Letterman.

01 April 2010

The Environment Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management Act Part 2

Claire Browning makes the point about the Environment Canterbury special legislation weakening the water conservation orders in Canterbury.

The press release of EDS, Ecologic, Fish and Game, Whitewater NZ and Forest and Bird is bang on.

The legislation really cries out 'Have a go at the Canterbury water conservation orders'. If Dame Margaret's commissioners don't give economic values enough weighting, the water interests are very familiar with the courts. The lack of appeal on facts to the Environment Court is unlikely to put off the water interests. Ngai Tahu and Central Plains Water Limited took the 'priority' of water issue (the 'who is first in line' issue) all the way to the Court of Appeal.

I have been looking at the "Dame Margaret" bill to see if the additional powers in Subpart 4, sections 61 to 69, will be likely to help 'fix' the Natural Resources Regional Plan ("NRRP").

S 63 appears to say Ecan (Dame Margaret's commissioners) must have particular regard to the CWMS in deciding the NRRP. Well, okay.

S 66 appears to say that there is no right of appeal of that decision to the Environment Court, only to the High Court, if you were a submitter.

S 69 appears to say that IF hearings on submissions on the NRRP have concluded (S 69(1)(b)) AND Ecan revokes the delegation to the NRRP commissioners (S 69(1)(a)) THEN Ecan can then make an 'instant' decision with no further cross-submissions or hearings AS LONG AS submissions, evidence and officers reports are considered.

However, Ecan's decision-making for the five problematic NRRP 'chapters', which were notified in July 2004, is 'grandparented' under the version of the RMA that existed in 2004. This is provided for in S 131 of the Resource Management Amendment Act 2005, S 161 of the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Act 2009 and S 62 of the Environment Canterbury Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management Bill (which specifically says S 161 still applies).

So, on the face of it, Dame Margaret can't make a quick-no-hearing-no-appeal decision on the NRRP, relying on S 63, 66 and 69. And submitters will still have rights of appeal to the Environment Court.

It appears to me that Dame Margaret can only use S 61, 63, 66 and 69 to speed up variations (amendments) to the NRRP, that she initiates AFTER the commencement of the Bill. At last count, Ecan were already up to 14 'variations' on the NRRP. I don't really see more variations cutting through the complexity. It's more likely to add to it.

However, Dame Margaret may 'withdraw' the proposed NRRP chapters under Schedule 1 Clause 8D 'Withdrawal of proposed policy statements and plans' of the RMA. That clause has not been changed since 1993, it was in the RMA when the NRRP was notified in 2004, so it can be used by Ecan/Dame Margaret.

I would favour complete withdrawal of the NRRP and starting again. I don't think the NRRP is worth saving.

For example, even if the NRRP was operative tomorrow, the rules only make groundwater consents exceeding a groundwater allocation block "non-complying" and therefore arguable at a hearing. The more rigorous 'third order' groundwater allocations that would be backed by prohibited rule status are a 'work-in-progress' And have been since 2004.

Really, this shows that Dame Margaret has a very tough job. She will need some very good planners as fellow commissioners to produce an effective regional water allocation plan for Canterbury. She is unlikely to be helped by the Ecan planners as they are stuck in Plato's cave, mistaking the world viewed through the lense of the NRRP as reality.