24 December 2010

Powered By Coal CBS 60 minutes

Here's a CBS 60 minutes documentary featuring James Hansen and the CEO of Duke Energy, the USA's third largest coal thermal power plant owner. The CEO says he totally accepts that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming. However, his plan is to phase out coal over 40 years.

CBS cuts to Hansen who of course says "No new coal fired power plants and a phase out must take place in 20 years or less". CBS goes back to the CEO and ask him how much Duke has invested in carbon capture and sequestration. The answer is nothing!

22 December 2010

World Temperature Trends

Is the world's average temperature warming? Yes, it is.

Here is a chart I have made with the R programme from the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies data.

The data is the Combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water Temperature Anomalies (Land-Ocean Temperature Index, LOTI), Global-mean monthly, seasonal, and annual means, 1880-present

The chart is a line plot of differences in annual land-ocean average temperature from the average for the base period 1951-1980 global mean temperature index, 1880 to present. The dotted blue line is the annual mean and the solid red line is the five-year mean, calculated with a Lowess function.

29 October 2010

Bobbiting the Employment Relations Act

Here is how the The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill (or the "Hobbit Bill) works.

Here is Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 with the words added by the Hobbit Act in italics.

Employment Relations Act 2000 No 24 Section 6 Meaning of employee

* (1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, employee—
(a) means any person of any age employed by an employer to do any work for hire or reward under a contract of service; and
(b) includes— (i) a homeworker; or + (ii) a person intending to work; but o (c) excludes a volunteer who— (i) does not expect to be rewarded for work to be performed as a volunteer; and (ii) receives no reward for work performed as a volunteer.

and
(d) excludes, in relation to a film production, any of the following persons:
(i) a person engaged in film production work as an actor, voice-over actor, stand-in, body double, stunt performer, extra, singer, musician, dancer, or entertainer:
(ii) a person engaged in film production work in any other capacity.
(1A) However, subsection (1)(d) does not apply if the person is a party to, or covered by, an employment agreement that provides that the person is an employee.


(2) In deciding for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) whether a person is employed by another person under a contract of service, the court or the Authority (as the case may be) must determine the real nature of the relationship between them.
(3) For the purposes of subsection (2), the court or the Authority—
(a) must consider all relevant matters, including any matters that indicate the intention of the persons; and
(b) is not to treat as a determining matter any statement by the persons that describes the nature of their relationship.
(4) Subsections (2) and (3) do not limit or affect the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 or the Sharemilking Agreements Act 1937.
(5) The court may, on the application of a union, a Labour Inspector, or 1 or more other persons, by order declare whether the person or persons named in the application are— (a) employees under this Act; or (b) employees or workers within the meaning of any of the Acts specified in section 223(1).
(6) The court must not make an order under subsection (5) in relation to a person unless— (a) the person— (i) is the applicant; or (ii) has consented in writing to another person applying for the order; and
(b) the other person who is alleged to be the employer of the person is a party to the application or has an opportunity to be heard on the application.

(7) In this section, “film” means a cinematograph film, a video recording, and any other material record of visual moving images that is capable of being used for the subsequent display of those images; and includes any part of any film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film
“film production” means the production of a film or video game
“film production work” (a) means the following work performed, or services provided, in relation to a film production:
(i) work performed, or services provided, by an actor, voice-over actor, stand-in, body double, stunt performer, extra, singer, musician, dancer, or entertainer (whether as an individual or not):
(ii) pre-production work or services (whether on the set or off the set):
(iii) production work or services (whether on the set or off the set):
(iv) post-production work or services (whether on the set or off the set):
(v) promotional or advertising work or services (whether on the set or off the set) by a person referred to in subparagraph (i); but
(b) excludes work performed, or services provided, in respect of the production of any programme intended initially for broadcast on television
“video game” means any video recording that is designed for use wholly or principally as a game
“video recording” means any disc, magnetic tape, or solid state recording device containing information by the use of which 1 or more series of visual images may be produced electronically and shown as a moving picture.

The Bobbit the Hobbit Bill

As noted, the "duck test" for telling an employee from a contractor is Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 as applied in Bryson vs Three Foot Six Ltd.

The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill (or the "Hobbit Bill requested by Sir Peter Jackson and Warner Bros") is now the law. It stops the "duck test" being applied in the NZ film production industry.

The facts of your employment, as in Bryson's case, are no longer relevant. In the NZ film production industry, you are a contractor (with no security, no sick pay, no ACC, no holiday pay) unless you have a written contract of employment stating that you are an employee. As from today, on any Jackson/Weta film production, being an employee is at the whim of Sirs Peter and Richard.

The Three Foot Six practices of issuing detailed contracts of employment that use the word "contractor" instead of "employee", and issuing pay slips marked "invoice", will be conclusive proof of the fact that you have no rights as an employee.

Facts of Bryson vs Three Foot Six Ltd

Have a read of the Bryson vs Three Foot Six Supreme Court case, also a PDF.
Under Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act 2000, someone can ask the courts to find that he/she is in fact an employee, despite the wishes of the film production company/"employer". In other words, this is a "duck test".

The Bryson facts were;
  • Bryson worked for Weta workshops as a miniature model maker for several months on regular hours and on an hourly rate ($18 an hour and from 8:00am to 5:30pm)

  • there was no written contract or letter of appointment

  • he transferred to Three Foot Six, the LOTR film production company, on a verbal basis

  • he got 3 weeks specific training for the new role

  • his partner had a baby, so he asked and they agreed he could stay on 8 to 5:30 instead of moving to 7:30am to 6pm which was normal for 3F6

  • after several more months, everyone on LOTR work is issued with a 'crew memo' which read exactly like an employment contract except it states "YOU ARE A CONTRACTOR"

  • Bryson is issued pay slips from 3F6 that are titled "Invoice"

  • Filming of LOTR finishes, 3F6 tells Bryson his services are no longer required and no redundancy is payable as he was a contractor (baby? partner? bad timing? eh)


Bryson asks the Employment Tribunal to make a finding of fact that he is an employee so he can allege unjustifiable dismissal. The Employment Tribunal agrees with 3F6 that he is a contractor. Bryson appeals this 'finding of facts' to the Employment Court, and Judge Shaw rehears the evidence and finds that Bryson is an employee of 3F6 (This is just like the Environment Court hearing an appeal of a resource consent. It rehears the evidence and 're-makes' the council's decision.) 3F6 appeal on 'points of law' to the Court of Appeal, and convinces the majority of the Court of Appeal judges that Judge Shaw made 'an error of law' in her judgment (This is because the C of A cannot re-make the Employment Court's decision, it can only review the procedures followed for errors of law).

The Supreme Court decides that there were no 'errors of law' in the Employment Court decision. Judge Shaw considered all relevant matters in the Section 6 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Therefore the Employment Court decision, that Bryson is, on the facts of his case, an employee of 3F6, stands.

This went through the various tribunals between 2002 and 2005. It is not very plausible to state that this area of law 'lacks clarity' or that this decision is a threat to the production of The Hobbit film.

27 October 2010

Bryson vs Three Foot Six

Here is National Radio on the Hobbit deal.

The Supreme Court case of James Bryson v Three Foot Six Limited, from 2005, is pretty much necessary context for the Key-Warners Bros deal.

Scoop have an explanatory summary from the Department of Courts, who also have the full record of the hearing (20 pages).

How long til he buys Elephant Man's skeleton?

This evening, we learned the outcome of negotiations held between Sir Peter Jackson's personal agent, the Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the media multi-national Warner Bros.

Key has 'brokered' with Warners a special deal for Jackson and "The Hobbit" film project.

Jackson gets special legislation to clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees in the film production industry. (PS the NZ Supreme Court says there is nothing to clarify)

Warners get $US15 million of tax rebates over two films and $US10 million for marketing.

So I wrote to Key.

Since when should Government be acting as an agent for private sector parties such as Warners and Peter Jackson? I had thought it was a central principle of your party that “Government should keep out of matters of business” and that “Government should not try to pick winners”.
Secondly, as a taxpayer, I am aghast that you have announced ad-hoc changes to film tax rebates to advantage only specifically Jackson and Warners, apparently in response to your meetings with Warners.
Thirdly, I am very disappointed that you intend to introduce legislation to Parliament apparently at the request of Warners and Jackson. And that this legislation is to clarify the law solely to specifically benefit the NZ film industry and Peter Jackson, instead of to achieve a general public goal. The Supreme Court has clarified the law of contractors and employees in Bryson vs Three Foot Six Ltd. This should only be amended by Parliament if due process is followed. This does not appear to be the case here.

06 October 2010

Hasta La Vista Paul Henry

Well I hope it is!

TVNZ has a comment form. I just used it! With this message.

Rick Ellis,
Chief Executive
Television NZ Limited,

Dear Mr Ellis,

Re: Paul Henry

Mr Henry's "expletive-laden tirade" of today (following his offensive comments about the Governor-General) confirms to me unequivocally that that Mr Henry no longer has any constructive role to play in Television NZ and that his two-week suspension was not the appropriate sanction.

It is time for this man to be removed from the airwaves and from TV NZ.

Yours sincerely

Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010

Andrew Geddis has expressed concern about the unconstitutionally sweeping powers of Gerry Brownlee's Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010.

I wondered if the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 had a Regulatory Impact Statement. These statements are meant to give an "evidence-based approach to policy development".

I wrote to the Ministry of Economic Development asking if there had been a Regulatory Impact Statement. Their reply (Google Docs) fairly promptly; "No there wasn't".

So I wrote this letter and sent it to Bill English, Rodney Hide (as the Ministers behind the Government Statement on Regulation and Gerry Brownlee, as Minister of Economic Development and Earthquake Recovery.

"The Ministry of Economic Development has confirmed to me that a Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) was not prepared for the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 of 14 September 2010. That Act gives the executive branch of Government sweeping powers to create exemptions from existing legislation via orders in council.

Will you please explain to me why there was no RIS for the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010? Who authorised the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010 to proceed without a RIS? Please treat this as a request for official information.

The absence of a RIS appears to be inconsistent with the Government Statement on Regulation, which you released on 17 August 2009. It includes commitments that:
"We will introduce new regulation only when we are satisfied that it is required, reasonable, and robust".
"We will resist the temptation or pressure to take a regulatory decision until we have considered the evidence, advice and consultation feedback.."
"Ensure that Cabinet's requirements for assuring regulatory quality are treated as an integral part of policy development, and built into the policy process from the beginning"


The statement also encourages the public to hold the Government to account for actions inconsistent with the commitments in the statement. In light of that, I am writing to say that the absence of an RIS for the earthquake Act is inconsistent with the Government Statement on Regulation, and I wish to hold the Government to account.

The absence of the RIS also appears to be inconsistent with Treasury's Regulatory Impact Analysis Handbook, which indicates that a RIS is required for any policy initiative or review that considers new primary legislation (Regulatory Impact Analysis Handbook, 2/11/2009, The Treasury, ISBN: 978-0-478-33091-5)."

I wonder what I'll get back?

07 September 2010

Canterbury earthquake links

Here are some cool Canterbury Earthquake links

Relive your sleepless night.
Christchurch earthquake map

Bob Parker did it and he is a lizard. Did I mention he is an alien?
Bob Parker Engineered the Earth quake

See the Canterbury earthquake page on Wikipedia.
A substantive 78-footnote page has sprouted in 4 days.
Canterbury earthquake

Secret government geo-engineering vis vapour trails.
New Zealand Chem Trails

02 September 2010

Delayers against elephants

A new group is on the political scene. "Delayers against elephants", protecting your family's right to pollution from fake elephants.

The Elephant in the room

What did I do at lunch time today? I was out with Tom Bennion as he walked up and down Lambton Quay in Wellington's CBD, in an elephant suit holding a sign saying "Time to stop flying".

The elephant in the room being Climate change.

Tom had released a media statement about why he did it.

01 September 2010

Iraq A trillion-dollar catastrophe

Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the United States and the United Kingdom was and is A trillion dollar catastrophe.

Jenkins notes:

Two million remain abroad as refugees from seven years of anarchy, with another 2 million internally displaced. Ironically, almost all Iraqi Christians have had to flee.


Jenkins does not hold back.
It was a wild overreaction by a paranoid, overmilitarised American state to a single spectacular, but inconsequential, act of terrorism on 9/11. As such it illustrated how little international relations have advanced since the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Its exponents are still blinded by incident.


I could not agree more.

27 August 2010

The Daft New Zealand Energy Strategy


Have you seen this chart from James Hansen's website? I have included it in my submission on the National Government's Daft Energy Strategies

Draft Energy Strategies
Ministry of Economic Development,
PO Box 1473
Wellington 6140

Submission on Draft New Zealand Energy Strategy and Draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy

Dear Sir/Madam,
Please accept this submission in respect of the Draft New Zealand Energy Strategy and the Draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy.
I attach a chart of the trend in historic global fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions and future IPCC emissions scenarios. I obtained it from the website of the NASA climate scientist James Hansen.
I see nothing in either strategy that will help reduce the trend in emissions growth.
I see next to nothing in either strategy that recognises the magnitude of the challenge of anthropogenic climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions (including carbon dioxide from fossil fuels).
Neither strategy even mentions;
  • the UNFCCC which NZ has signed,
  • the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report,
  • the Kyoto Protocol which is binding on NZ,
  • NZ's energy intensity,
  • NZ's actual emissions.
Therefore, I oppose the adoption of both strategies because they are wholly inadequate in setting out any realistic measures to decarbonise the economy.
I request that there should only be one New Zealand energy strategy, that is directed to decarbonising the economy, and that is focused on efficiency and conservation, as required by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2000.

The closing deadline for submissions is 5.00pm, Thursday 2 September 2010.

13 August 2010

Biodiversity and energy must-reads

Massey ecologist Mike Joy has written a must-read opinion piece in the Dominion Post on how short-term profit-seeking, economic analysis and the legal system, the Government, the Resource Management Act, and well, all of us, have failed to slow New Zealand's decline in biodiversity. Government failures and ecological apathy bite back.

Joy highlights the role of consultants and lawyers acting for resource developers.

Simply put, it is expensive to limit environmental damage. So predictably the economic incentive for the evasion of the laws that are there for a public good, quickly became a big money-spinner for lawyers and consulting firms.


These law firms and environmental consultancies have been successful at helping their clients evade the RMA. They have increased profits for developers/polluters while undermining the ecosystems that sustain us all; effectively allowing private profit from public loss.


And Claire Browning has a good post on Gerry Brownlee's 'fossilised' 'fuelish' energy strategy Filty rich: our developing energy strategy.

Claire Browning asks:
Can we, in clean green conscience, keep digging for coal and drilling for oil, postponing the inevitable, and increasing the global carbon burden? How do we justify that, to the rest of the world?


No, its insanity.

12 August 2010

Impact assessment risk management NZ agriculture

I have just uploaded a new paper to Robin's website. It is:

RWMJ (1992m) 'Impact assessment and risk management in New Zealand agriculture: integrating local, regional and national farm models', In: 'Regional and Catchment Modelling', Agricultural Systems & Information Technology, Vol 4, No 2, November 1992, Bureau of Resources, ACT, Australia.

From the abstract: 'This paper describes methodologies and results achieved with local and regional models for agricultural impact analysis both within the agricultural sector and on other sectors in New Zealand.'

09 August 2010

A new post on Worlds Worst ETS

Earlier this evening I wrote a new post on the other blog, The Worlds Worst Emissions Trading Scheme.

It explains that the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme is not a cap and trade scheme as it has no cap.

Yes, really No Cap

07 August 2010

Adjustment in agriculture: agribusiness

I have just uploaded a new paper to Robin's website. It is:


Johnson R W M (1988e) Adjustment in agriculture: agribusiness, Discussion Paper 121, Vol 1: 103-112, Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit, Lincoln College, University of Canterbury.


This was a paper presented to the July 1988 annual meeting of the NZ branch of the Australasian Agricultural Economics Society. Here is the abstract.


This paper reviews changes in the agribusiness sector since 1984. Evidence is based on available statistics and some anecdotal information. Considerable changes are identified in factor markets, input markets and service markets. Main features include rapid increases in factor productivity, stabilization of service prices (except interest), a decline in investment and a decline in balance sheet assets. Amalgamation and restructuring has occurred in the input and service industries and surplus capacity still exists at several points. Outputs can only be maintained at current high levels by disinvestment in the capital base. The agribusiness sector is likely to settle down at some new lower level of output and investment with increased levels of productivity in the medium term.

22 July 2010

Hurunui River moratorium: So What?

According to the Press, the Greens and Forest and Bird have welcomed today's Ecan's moratorium on processing applications for resource consents to take more water from the Hurunui River. It's even been described as a victory for "people power".

That view is just so wrong. Just read the Environment Canterbury announcement all the way down to the sixth paragraph.
"Existing resource consents would not be affected by a moratorium."

So it will have no effect on the applications to dam the Hurunui River for irrigation storage already lodged by the Hurunui Water Project

As far as I know, there is no impending 'flood' of applications to take more water from the Hurunui River about to hit Environment Canterbury. So the moratorium is at best, a futile gesture, and at worst, greenwashing for Smith and the irrigators.

It's the applications to dam the Hurunui River that are the 'game-changers' which will have irreversible adverse effects on the ecology of the Hurunui River. That particular horse has bolted from the stable, so there's not much point shutting the stable door.

The World's Worst Emissions Trading Scheme

TO DO list
* catch 4:30pm no 3 bus Lambton Quay...check
* 5:00pm buy mushrooms Karori Woolworths...check
* 5:20pm cook Mrs Johnson her favourite meal; bacon and eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms...check
* 5:45pm - serve dinner to Mrs Johnson as per Key Performance Criteria - finished by 6:00pm...check
* 6:00pm - wash dishes...check
* 6:10pm - go to bedroom to escape TV1 News on really loud...check
* 7:00pm - go online, set up new blog to combat climate change...check

The World's Worst Emissions Trading Scheme

20 July 2010

Brownlee's Mining Backdown?

It looks as though our submissions were successful! The Government has announced the decision decided not to allow mining by removing 7,000 hectares from Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991. It is great that as many people marched and submitted as they have. It's great that Brownlee and co have backed down on mining in Schedule 4 conservation areas.

BUT there is a sting in the tail of the Government's announcement at Scoop. Its going to be much easier for mines to be approved in the other 60% of the conservation estate not in Schedule 4.

Scroll down to bullet point 12. 'What has the government agreed to, and why?' "Decisions regarding access to land for mineral-related activity are to be made jointly by the landholding minister and the Minister of Energy and Resources." That is by Kate Wilkinson AND Gerry Brownlee. So pro-mining Gerry gets to jointly decide mining access to conservation land. Gerry as disinterested impartial decision maker?? It's just gobsmacking.

Have a look at the decision making matters in Section 61(2) of the Crown Minerals Act 1991 , that Gerry (and Kate W) will operate under. They are:
"*(a) The objectives of any Act under which the land is administered; and
*(b) Any purpose for which the land is held by the Crown; and
*(c) Any policy statement or management plan of the Crown in relation to the land; and
*(d) The safeguards against any potential adverse effects of carrying out the proposed programme of work; and
*(e) Such other matters as the appropriate Minister considers relevant."

For a conservation area proposed for mining, considering a) through to e) will involve conservation purposes, not mining purposes. It's just so wrong for Gerry to have any role.

Even an allegedly more conservationist Minister twists these matters and approves mines. Here's an example; back on 12 March 2004 Chris Carter as Minister of Conservation agonised in deciding to approve Pike River Coal's application
but he still approved it.

Think how much quicker Gerry and Kate would have approved Pike River Coal Mine's access. This isn't good for conservation.

01 July 2010

New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme stage 2

Today, the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme moves to 'stage 2'.

That is to say, today several sectors of the NZ economy 'enter' the NZ ETS.

'Participants' in the sectors stationary energy, industrial processes and liquid fossil fuels, now have obligations to obtain and surrender emission units to match their emissions.

Remember 'stage 1' started in 1 January 2008 with forestry, who are be a net sink of emissions, not a source. In other words, 'afforestation' since 1990 has been able to earn emission units for carbon sequestration. So 'stage 2' is significant as several sectors that are major sources of greenhouse gases now have mandatory obligations.

According to this Wikipedia tool, 1,011 people in June considered it worth at least browsing to the wikipedia page on the NZ ETS.

And on 30 June, yesterday (Tuesday ), 91 people browsed the NZ ETS wikipedia page.

Its not many is it? More surprising, on Monday 28 June, 3 days before the start of 'stage 2' of the NZETS, not a single person checked the wikipedia page.

11 June 2010

James Hansen 22 years of testimony

I just found a 2008 Guardian article by James Hansen noting the 20th anniversary of his 1988 testimony to the US Congress. The good old Guardian have left us a PDF of it.

Actually now its the 22nd anniversary. That's a two year old newspaper I'm surfing.

03 June 2010

Requiem for a Species

I am currently reading;
Well actually I had a brief look at:

Clive Hamilton (2010). Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth about Climate Change. Allen & Unwin. pp. 103–105. ISBN 1742372104. .

01 June 2010

Whiff of self-interest

Vernon Small has written a good article in today's Dominion Post Whiff of self-interest in ETS air, noting the blatant self-interest of farmers being cultivated by the ACT Party as they stir up trouble over the impending New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.

Small notes In truth, farmers are bleating from a position of extreme privilege. They are having a "dream run" as greenhouse gas emissions from pastoral stock (48% of NZ's total) do not enter the NZETS until 2015.

He quotes Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, saying that the biggest flaw in the NZETS is the high on-going level of free allocation of carbon credits/emission units that will be given to trade-exposed emissions-intensive industries.

22 May 2010

The Ethics of Emission Trading

I have some homework to do. I am writing a book on forest carbon sinks with the Kennett Bros and Tom Bennion.

I need to read up on ethics of emissions trading

Hopefully this should do it.

19 May 2010

The Blues Magoos Tobacco Road

For some reason, I feel the need to....embed a You Tube video of the American 1960s band The Blues Magoos performing the John D Loudermilk song Tobacco Road.

17 May 2010

Mokihinui Madness

Claire Browning has done another thoughtful post on the Pundit blog about the roles of Meridian and Solid Energy in seeking permission to respectively dam the Mohikinui River Gorge and remove the habitat of Powelliphanta augusta for the Cypress open cast coal mine

I agree with her conclusion - it is bad government to let an SOE push the envelope of 'balancing the environment and the economy' as far as Meridian has in obtaining resource consents for a dam on a large undammed river within 337 ha of conservation 'stewardship' land.

Claire Browning asks "how does it serve the taxpayer exactly, for Meridian to battle on with Mokihinui consents, in the face of quite clear signals that they would not get the DOC dispensations that they need?"

Yes, having DOC and Meridian funding lawyers and expert witnesses at both the council resource consent hearings and the Environment Court is obviously a waste of money. Particularly, when DOC, as the agent of the landowner, the Crown, has not approved the use of the Mokihinui River Gorge.

I have been wondering for some time (actually since Easter 2003 when I tramped from the Buller River via Lyell to the south Branch of the Mokihinui River and out the gorge, great tramp actually) why DOC has even been bothering to participate in the resource consent process when DOC has a right of veto over the permission to use conservation land for a non-conservation purpose.

So when I read of DOC's intention to appeal the grant of resource consents, I thought I would just ring up the direct dial number of the "Comms" person given on the press release, and ask. To protect his identity, I have made up the name "Mr Spin".

Our conversation went like this.
1. Is DOC appealing the grant of the consent or just the consent conditions?
"Both. DOC does oppose the substance of decision to grant. I can email you the notice of appeal."
2. What is status of Meridian's application for a concession for the dam?
"It is "on hold" at Meridian's request therefore DOC cannot decide it."
3. Does the Conservation Act 1987 provide for applications for concessions to be placed "on hold"?
"Um as far as I am aware yes, DOC cannot process it, its the same as if there were no application."
4. If DOC opposes the proposal, why does it not simply decline application for concession?
"It is my understanding that the department cannot act on the application for concession if the applicant has requested a delay in processing."
5. Do you realise that the Department is being gamed by Meridian?
"Ah ha ha ha. The department has to follow due process in these matters and Meridian is able to choose how it proceeds with its proposal so the department has to proceed via the Environment Court".

"Mr Spin" had completely recovered from appearing slightly wrong footed by my third question, which after brief hesitation he fudged admirably. With his "Ah ha ha" he was now talking in a very superior tone of "you may say that, I couldn't possibly". The DOC Glenorchy staff I worked with as hut warden in the mid 1990s would no doubt regard "Mr Spin" as a "head office shiny-pantsed seat-warmer".

The RMA clearly provides in section 37A for applicants for consents to request a delay in processing. But the Conservation Act 1987, which deals with concessions in sections 17O through to 17ZJ, has no such provisions. The Conservation Act 1987 does not provide for applications for concessions to be placed "on hold".

"Mr Spin" was reflecting the party line, however incorrect it may be. In September 2009, the Hon Tim Groser informed Parliament: "Meridian Energy has requested that part of the application, with respect to the proposed dam footprint and inundation area, be put on hold while the Department of Conservation processes a land exchange application over the same area"

A land swap! Are they joking? If you follow the case law in Buller Electricity Ltd vs the Attorney General High Court case , DOC cannot dispose of or swap land for a non-conservation purpose. There is no chance that Meridian could find a large river equivalent to the Mokihinui River Gorge outside the conservation estate. Wasn't that the point of the allegedly suppressed Landcare report?

Back to Mr Groser. As at October 2009, DOC are still considering Meridian's land swap application .

I am gobsmacked that DOC is allowing Meridian to dictate the timing of the processing of concession application and also it appears the land swap proposal. DOC has let itself be fooled into wasting time and money opposing the Mokihinui dam in a decision-making forum dominated by 'weak sustainability' when it had at all times the statutory decision making power to decline a concession application or a land swap on due to inconsistence with conservation purposes.

16 May 2010

Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General

I have just added a copy of the 1995 High Court case Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General 1995 3 NZLR 344 to www.scribd.com. Its an important case which should be relevant to the current issue of Meridian's proposed hydro-electric dam on the Mokihinui River which will be within conservation land.

Buller Electricity Ltd v Attorney-General 1995 3 NZLR 344

01 May 2010

Brownlee's reverse Midas touch on Mining

John Armstrong, the New Zealand Herald's chief political commentator, is hardly out on the extreme left.

Today he has written a scathing column about Minister of Energy and Resources Gerry Brownlee's plan to lift the prohibition on mining in 7,000 hectares from national parks and some other high-value conservation areas which would otherwise be protected by their inclusion in Schedule 4 of the Crown Minerals Act 1991.

Armstrong says the idea "is turning to custard", that his search for a mining Eldorado is "King Midas in reverse".

Armstrong writes that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, has "slammed the document as inadequate in assessing the real ecological impact of mining in specific localities, deficient in the way it measures the value of minerals claimed to be underground and unacceptable in recommending additions to Schedule Four as some kind of quid pro quo for taking other land out of that protection."

Armstrong considers Brownlee's poor "salesmanship" is a symptom of a wider problem of the National Government. Ministers seeking policy advice from outside of the core public service. That's consistent with Rod Oram's view that Brownlee only takes advice from mining industry insiders.

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.