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Protest action runs up $1 million bill

2 April 2006

Protest action runs up $1 million bill for Solid Energy

Illegal occupations, vandalism, lost revenue, and wasted staff time – all due to the actions of a small group of protesters - have cost coal producer, Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd, up to $1 million since the end of 2004, with the potential for significant escalation if the incidents continue.

Solid Energy has responded to a request made by the Sunday Star-Times under the Official Information Act, confirming that as a result of increased protest action, both legal and illegal, the company has contracted the services of security specialists. Solid Energy has not released any details about its security arrangements but confirms that it contracts with security companies on the basis that all the activities carried out are legal.

Solid Energy Chief Executive Officer, Dr Don Elder, says: “We have to take security seriously in our business. We need to ensure that our staff and contractors work in a safe environment, we also need to protect our property and we need to minimise disruption to our business.

“It is prudent business practice to receive advice from experts in their field. Faced with an increasing number of incidents over the last two years in which protesters have disrupted our business and potentially placed in danger our staff and contractors, we took the only option available; we brought in security consultants to advise us on how we can best protect our staff and our business. This should come as no surprise, particularly to the protesters who continue to engage in disruptive and, at times illegal, actions.

“We have contracted with Thompson & Clark Investigations Ltd to provide us with advice on security matters and with security company, Gibson Security Ltd to provide on-the-ground security staff at our Stockton Mine in the Buller, and other locations from time to time. We also use other security firms to provide security at other sites around the country

Since September 2004 there has been an increasing number of incidents in which Solid Energy staff and property have been impacted by protesters. In the most serious incident in August 2005, two protesters changed themselves to a railway line near Christchurch and had to be removed by the Police. Coal trains to Lyttelton were delayed, resulting in lost revenue of more than $200,000.

There have been incidents of vandalism and/or trespass at Solid Energy’s Christchurch office. In February this year three people scaled the building to the roof and blocked the roof access which police had to smash to remove the protesters. In another incident protesters chained themselves onto a glass canopy over the main entrance to the building, raising concerns about staff and visitor safely. Again the police had to remove them from the building. Holes have been dug in the lawn and graffiti painted on the walls.

In all of these instances the police have been involved and thousands of dollars spent fixing the damage. Two protesters were convicted and ordered to pay costs as a result of the railway line incident; one of these and two others are currently facing charges in relation to the occupation of Solid Energy’s building. This has involved lawyers and the courts are spending time and money hearing the cases.

The protest action has been directed at a new mine in the Buller (Cypress Opencast) which has been through an exhaustive approval process, with consents confirmed by the Environmental Court and reconfirmed by the Court of Appeal.

Solid Energy has declined to release any further information about its security arrangements as this would prejudice and disadvantage its ability to carry out its commercial activities.

Solid Energy has also received a number of requests from anti-mining protestors under the Official Information Act for information that we hold about them. The company does not hold any information about any protesters, other than what is publicly available, and videos of protesters being handed out pre-emptive trespass notices and protesting at our sites.

ENDS

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