06 December 2010

Southland's Love Affair with Coal

I am constantly amazed, that with the spectre of a large opencast mining operation setting up on our back doorstep, there has been very little commentary (read none) covering the less savoury aspects of Solid Energy's plans for Southland.

All we seem to hear about is the possibility of new jobs and more money in our area.  But there are other issues that should be being covered so that we can all make well informed decisions about our future.

  • What about the damage to NZ's clean green image - something we use shamelessly to promote our tourism industry and many of our exports?  How much is that worth?  Will this project have an effect on it?
  • I have seen no discussion about the effect on our lifestyles here - more people, more traffic and more heavy traffic are all potential consequences of Solid Energy's industrial plans for Southland.  Given that our recent Business Expansion & Retention survey showed that many of our business people have chosen to stay in Mataura because of the lifestyle it offers, surely any potential negative changes to that lifestyle should be being discussed publicly?
  • Do we know how the waste from the mine and processing facilities will be dealt with?  How will the mine and the processing of the lignite effect the local environment?
  • What about discussion over the appropriateness of mining the coal in the first place, given that it is well understood that coal is one of the dirtiest fuels available.  Perhaps it is better left in the ground?
  • Solid Energy is a state owned enterprise.  Where is the discussion over whether or not this is even a direction New Zealanders want them to take?  Would the money that has been sunk into this project so far have been better spent on putting our country at the forefront of sustainable energy research?
There is so much more to mining in Southland than just jobs and money.  Where is the rest of the story?