Goodwill and some anger at Mangatawhiri meeting

9 Mar

On Thursday 7 March twelve members of Auckland Coal Action joined local residents wanting to find out more about the Glencoal Energy (aka Fonterra) application to open a coal mine near State Highway 2 at Mangatawhiri.

On arrival we found a really impressive lineup of what looked like every car in Mangatawhiri parked outside the community hall: unfortunately, the big attraction proved to be the school swimming pool next door! But local organisers led by Bill Morris did a great job publicising the meeting with a sausage sizzle to begin with and the meeting was attended by close to 40 local residents.  Many arrived clutching our ACA leaflet, thanks to Bill, who had distributed it into 500 letterboxes – a fantastic achievement!

Mangatawhiri hall

Alan Sanson, The Mayor of the Waikato District Council, who chaired the meeting, opened it with a plea that all present show respect for those with different opinions – but the plea hardly seemed necessary as what followed was a model combination of information sharing and opinion airing – the true stuff of local democracy. Nevertheless, among those present were some who were clearly angry at the idea of a coal mine in their lovely rural district.

Site of proposed mine

Site of proposed mine

The expert speakers in the first part of the meeting made a strong combination. Dr Wendy Ring,  who has studied the higher rates of ordinary illnesses and deaths associated with coal mining in America, showed how every stage of coal mining from extraction to transport to processing to burning to water and waste disposal increases health hazards for surrounding populations, particularly among those already vulnerable, like asthmatics or heart patients.

Jim Salinger then spoke on the causes and dangers of climate change. Surrounded as we all were by once-green Waikato pastures parched to Hawke’s Bay brown by the current drought, everyone had to be impressed by his graphs and maps showing the predicted effects on rainfall of climate change not just in the Waikato but all over the North (and much of the South) Island.

Jeanette Fitzsimons explained how to make submissions to the two councils (Waikato Regional and Waikato District) handling Glencoal’s RMA consents application, and a lively question and answer session followed, giving residents had a chance to ask some searching questions and to air their concerns.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty also spoke, using her knowledge of Waihi residents’ struggles to argue that the consents process should be used to ensure that commitments to monitor water or air quality continue to be carried out if the mine goes ahead.

Bill Morris, however, advocated making sure the mine never does go ahead, while the local kaumatua who closed the meeting expressed his concern about threats to the health of local children from windborne micro-particles of dust.

ACA member Geoff Mason’s revelation that he has photographed uncovered trucks carrying fly ash  from Fonterra’s factories made quite an impression in the final stages of the meeting. (Fly ash is the ash left over from burning coal.)

Uncovered fly ash truck, dumping at Kopako 3 mine.

Airborne dust from fly ash, product of burning coal.

How many of those present were open to the message about climate change, though, given the amount of misinformation and “debate” still flying around on the web and media regarding this crucially important issue, remains to be seen.

Auckland Coal Action and Mangatawhiri residents may have different motives for opposing this mine, but clearly we can help each other to achieve the same objective – no coal mine at Mangatawhiri!

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2 Responses to “Goodwill and some anger at Mangatawhiri meeting”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Locals to host public meeting on Mangatangi Mine proposals | auckland coal action - 10 March 2013

    […] This event has been and gone. Our article on how the meeting went is here. […]

  2. Submit Now On Fonterra’s Proposed New Mine Near Auckland | Coal Action Network Aotearoa - 21 March 2013

    […] Fonterra wants to build a new coal mine at Mangatawhiri, near Auckland, and Auckland Coal Action is working with local residents to oppose it. […]

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