Protest targets Westpac

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 11/04/2014
Holly Webster
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
TAKING ACTION: Thursday's protest against Westpac loaning money to Bathurst Resources for their operation on the Denniston Plateau.

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Protesters say Westpac is guilty of environmental hypocrisy.

A small group of demonstrators were outside the Nelson branch yesterday voicing their concern that the bank was financing coalmining on the Denniston Plateau, on the West Coast, while claiming it was dedicated to sustainability.

The protesters from the Nelson Environmental Centre said Westpac was financing Bathurst with $5 million in loans and an overdraft facility. "It's a great example of a corporation doing one thing and saying the other," protester Bruce Gilkison said.

Carolyn Hughes was at the bank to close her accounts and cut up her eftpos card.

"Over the country a whole lot of people have been trying to tell Westpac over the last six months to drop the plan to finance Bathurst. The last thing we want is the huge carbon emissions it will cause."

She had been a Westpac customer for eight years.

"They don't have a consistent sustainability plan, they say they value the environment and are taking action to stop emissions, so this flies in the face of that."

On its website, the bank said it was committed to reducing its carbon footprint. In its 2013 sustainability report, Westpac New Zealand chief executive Peter Clare said the company was carbon neutral. Westpac New Zealand also won the NZI Sustainable Business of the Year 2011, and was named Canstar Cannex Most Socially Responsible Bank in 2012.

Protests were planned around the country against the bank today and tomorrow with customers switching to banks that did not finance the fossil fuel industry.

The nationwide protests were part of a campaign organised by 350 Aotearoa and Coal Action Network Aotearoa.

350 Aotearoa spokeswoman Ashlee Gross said the action was a "victory for the climate".

"Customers are saying we've got a responsibility and a choice to look at what our money is funding, and we won't keep financing Denniston or financing climate change."

She said mining Denniston would create "unsafe levels of climate change".

"Globally, coal, oil and gas companies' business plans would mean digging up five times the fossil fuel reserves that we can afford to keep global warming to 2 degrees C."

A spokesman for Westpac, Chris Mirams, said the bank provided banking services to Bathurst Resources "but has not been involved in financing Bathurst's Denniston Escarpment Mine project". Mirams said the bank was committed to the transition to a low-carbon economy and supporting projects that used clean technologies and are "making the transition to a carbon-constrained operating environment."

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