Activists lock themselves to tracks to block coal train

Climate activists have locked themselves to the railway tracks at the Dunedin Railway Station blocking a train transporting coal.

There are about 15 activists from Extinction Rebellion at the protest this morning. About seven people are on the tracks and two of them are physically clipped onto the tracks wearing face masks that say ‘no to coal’.

They have been here since about 6.30am.

Several police officers are also at the scene.

The train was bringing coal from Bathurst Resources’ Takitimu mine in Southland to Fonterra’s Clandeboye milk factory in Canterbury. 

KiwiRail Dunedin operations manager Jamie McFarland said the protest had caused a massive disruption to its service, not only locally, but to the wider South Island network.

‘‘The biggest problem I have is that they have recklessly endangered themselves and also my staff.’’

During their last protest, during the markets, staff had not been immediately aware that there were people on the tracks, he said.

‘‘It is a shame — there are other ways to get your message across.’’ 

Activists against coal mining lay on the tracks at the Dunedin Railway Station this morning. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Activists against coal mining lay on the tracks at the Dunedin Railway Station this morning. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Extinction Rebellion Spokeswoman Jana Al Thea (16) said they were there to hold KiwiRail accountable for the car loads of coal they transport through the city.

She had watched climate change continue to escalate over her lifetime and “frankly” it was unacceptable, she said.

“We’re here to tell KiwiRail to Stop hauling Coal. KiwiRail is carrying climate-destroying coal to make a profit for the very government that has declared a Climate Emergency.

“That climate-destroying coal is stealing my future. KiwiRail is stealing my future,” she said.

The protesters got onto the track at 7.30am and began walking towards the train that was due to leave the station, meeting it head on. The train backed away and hasn’t returned since.

Member Blake Armstrong said their last protest on the tracks, during the Saturday Otago Farmers Markets, lasted eight hours.

But they were told they wouldn’t be able to stick around that long this time around.

The group had written a letter to KiwiRail and bought the train driver a box of chocolates, he said.

The protesters remain in the tracks, sitting in a train formation, while trains carrying other goods, including perishables, have been able to pass on another track.

Among the protesters is 79-year-old Michael Fay.

He said he had been part of rebellions for much of his life, but joined Extinction Rebellion at the beginning of last year.

Police at the Extinction Rebellion protest this morning. Photo: Craig Baxter
Police at the Extinction Rebellion protest this morning. Photo: Craig Baxter

It was when the sky turned a strange colour as the Australian bush fires were raging that he thought “I ought to do something”.

Mr Fay was holding a sign that said “I am rebelling because I want our grandchildren to be able to hope and dream”.

Ms Al Thea said they weren’t planning on going anywhere any time soon, but it was up to each individual how long they stayed.

The daily coal train recently derailed on dilapidated tracks between Bathurst’s Takitimu coal mine and Invercargill. 







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