Fight over climate change in coalmining continues

The fight over whether climate change should be considered when applications are made for coalmining continues as a West Coast mine seeks to expand.

The Environment Court ruled a month ago that climate change could not be considered when local authorities assessed applications for coal extraction, despite coal combustion releasing carbon dioxide, a known greenhouse gas.

Instead, it was deemed a matter for central government. The West Coast Environment Network and Forest & Bird have appealed against the decision.

The issue was raised again on Monday by several conservation lobby groups at the resource consent hearing into state-owned enterprise Solid Energy's bid to extend its Stockton mine into Mt William.

Solid Energy had applied to the West Coast Regional Council and the Buller District Council to mine into new areas of the Stockton Plateau, where it runs New Zealand's largest opencast coalmine.

Hearing commissioners had directed submitters to avoid presenting evidence on climate change as a result of the court ruling.

Two senior doctors representing the New Zealand Climate and Health Council highlighted the dangers of new coalmining to local, national and global health.

Council co-founder Alex Macmillan, a public health physician, said New Zealand's legal frameworks failed to protect human health from climate change, which was shown with the Environment Court decision.

That included weak resource management laws and ineffective emissions trading scheme.

She said it was poignant timing because the World Wildlife Fund reported yesterday that New Zealand had achieved none of the major environmental commitments it signed up to at the original Earth Summit, held 20 years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A rally was also held outside the hearing to highlight environmental lobby groups' concerns about climate change.

Coal Action Network Aotearoa spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden said almost 150,000 people had signed a No New Coal, No New Oil petition, which called for a cleaner economy.

Australian company Bathurst Resources had gained resource consent for an opencast mine on the Denniston Plateau, near the Stockton mine, but it was being opposed in the Environment Court.

The Press