Shut down lignite plant, lobbyists say

Coal Action Network Aotearoa member Rosemary Penwarden (centre) flanked by Jeanlou Fourquet (left) and Enaz Erazal carries a gift of mothballs and fresh produce for Solid Energy outside its briquetting plant on Craig Rd, near Mataura yesterday. Photo by Helena de Reus.
Coal Action Network Aotearoa member Rosemary Penwarden (centre) flanked by Jeanlou Fourquet (left) and Enaz Erazal carries a gift of mothballs and fresh produce for Solid Energy outside its briquetting plant on Craig Rd, near Mataura yesterday. Photo by Helena de Reus.
Climate-change campaigners are gathered near Gore this weekend to support Southlanders concerned about the potential impacts on their communities of lignite mining.

The ''Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival'' began yesterday at Dolamore Park near Gore, and finishes on Monday.

The festival's theme is ''Shaping Our Future - We Have Options'' and is being hosted by Coal Action Murihiku.

Yesterday, members of Coal Action Network presented Solid Energy with a ''low-carbon future'' basket of sustainably-grown vegetables to represent the future of Southland's fertile farming, paired with some mothballs for its lignite projects.

Summer festival attendees took a tour to view Solid Energy's coal projects in the area, including the briquetting plant in Mataura, where they left the basket for the company.

The gates to the plant were locked, with security guards on site when the group arrived outside.

Spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden asked Solid Energy to mothball the plant.

''We've spent $29 million of taxpayers' money on this lignite project already - and any more money spent would be a waste,'' she said yesterday.

The region would be far better off looking to develop low-carbon technologies and industry, as spelt out in the Berl economic report for Southland released by WWF last year, she said.

''Given things aren't going so well for you guys, we would like to offer an alternative. We have options: mothball the briquette plant, and join with us in choosing a low-carbon future for all of our children and grandchildren.''

The group visited Solid Energy's New Vale coal mine at Waimumu, and Craig Rd farmer Mike Dumbar.

The festival includes an update on lignite projects, and a series of workshops. Several speakers will address a public open day at the James Cumming Wing on Ardwick St, Gore, tomorrow. Speakers include Friends of Felton founding president, Australian farmer Rob McCreath, whose group won a four-and-a-half-year battle against a proposed open-cut coal mine and a petrochemical plant on the Darling Downs, in Queensland.

Public open day, James Cumming Wing, Ardwick St, Gore, 10am to 3.30pm.