Auckland University staff demand fossil fuel divestment

Fossil Free UoA spokesperson Alex Johnston says the letter is a signal that a very significant number of staff are ...
JAMES PASLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Fossil Free UoA spokesperson Alex Johnston says the letter is a signal that a very significant number of staff are coming out against the investment.

Auckland University is being called on by its own staff to sell its fossil fuel investments. 

An open letter signed by 240 staff from eight faculties released publicly on Wednesday urged the University of Auckland (UoA) to sell its coal, oil and gas investments.

The letter comes after two years of campaigning against the university's fossil fuel investments by university group Fossil Free UoA. The campaign has included marches, petitions and a 12 hour occupation of Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon's wing in May.

Law professor Jane Kelsey signed the letter.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Law professor Jane Kelsey signed the letter.

The university employs about 5000 staff.

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Prominent signatories of the letter included historian Dame Anne Salmond, associate dean Dr Niki Harre, population health professor Peter Adams, and law professor Jane Kelsey.

Auckland University's associate dean of sustainability Niki Harre also signed the letter.
SUPPLIED

Auckland University's associate dean of sustainability Niki Harre also signed the letter.

Fossil Free UoA estimated $2.7 million of the $180m in the University of Auckland Foundation was invested in the fossil fuel industry.

​University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington have already divested in fossil fuels and University of Canterbury has partially divested. 

Senior lecturer Rhys Jones said universities played a critical role in shaping public opinion on urgent issues like climate change. 

He said divesting would be an effective step to show the university didn't condone extracting fossil fuels. 

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A spokesperson for the university said McCutcheon was aware of the letter and understood it would be considered by the foundation on Friday. 

The spokesperson didn't say whether the university had changed its position.

Fossil Free UoA spokesperson Alex Johnston said, while staff had supported the group in the past, this was a significant gesture. 

"This letter is a new signal that a very significant number of staff are coming out publicly and putting it to the foundation," Johnston said.

Johnston said the foundation's tabling of the letter was progress.  

"This is the first time the foundation has shown any real engagement after over two years campaigning."

"We're hoping the foundation will discuss the letter and we will be allowed to speak at the next meeting in September."

Johnston said Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon should back his staff and call for divestment in non renewable resources.

 - Stuff

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