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Hunger strike to Save Happy Valley

Hunger strike to Save Happy Valley

August 30th 2004

A hunger strike was initiated today by two South Island students, who will confine themselves to a small platform suspended from a tree on the road to Stockton, near Granity on the West Coast, in protest of the proposed "Cypress" mine in Happy Valley.

"What we are doing may seem dangerous, but the dangers posed by the Cypress Mine are far greater. We want to illustrate the hunger and suffering that global climate change will cause, to empathise with those who have no voice in the world." stated Fiona Gibson, one of the hunger strikers.

A number of campaigners from around the country have also occupied the site of the proposed "Cypress" mine in Happy Valley, 25km from Westport. The campaigners hope to highlight the unique beauty of the area, as well as the environmental damage caused by the neighbouring Stockton mine.

"We're here to show our support for local groups and individuals that are trying to save Happy Valley, and to show that people all over New Zealand are against this mine" says Rob Cadmus, one of the hunger strikers.

Happy Valley is a unique and diverse ecosystem, and forms a significant part of an area marked out as the most Recommended Area for Protection by a 1998 DoC survey of the Ngakawau Ecological District. In the recent resource consent hearings the Director-General of DoC requested that the consents for the mine be declined, reflecting the importance of the area. The Happy Valley mine proposal has sparked outrage from around the country because of the inherently destructive nature of open-cast mining, the range of native habitat that will be destroyed, and the shocking record of Solid Energy in monitoring the damage caused by their current mines (not considered by the resource consents committee).

"Open cast coal mining is the most destructive form of mining. The top of the land is scraped off, horrific pollution and acid mine drainage is created, and local rivers are stripped of fish and invertebrates. No amount of rehabilitation effort will restore it within our, or our childrens lifetimes." said Mr Cadmus.

Of particular concern is that the proposed mine site is home to a range of threatened species, including great spotted kiwi, western weka, and an especially rare giant land snail. Habitat loss is the main reason for the decline of these species. New Zealand is rated as one of the biodiversity hotspots of the world, but that status is threatened by blatant acions such as the Cypress mine. Solid Energy has proposed a range of mitigations for the damage caused by the mine, but this has raised serious doubts from DoC .

"The proposed Cypress mine contradicts what the government hopes to achieve with the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy. The government is spending millions of dollars on trying to save our endangered animals, while at the same time destroying their habitat - a classic example of digging a hole with one hand and filling it in with the other." said zoologist Jack Mace.

The burning of coal produces some of the most noxious greenhouse gasses, especially carbon dioxide, that contribute to global warming. The scientific majority believe global warming is the biggest risk to global stability, with the potential for massive famines,an increase in the frequency and intensity of storms and widespread flooding. New Zealand, as an island nation, is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with rising sea levels causing widespread coastal erosion. It has been suggested that the vicious droughts and storms that have plagued the country in recent times, causing massive economic damage, are in part due to the effects of climate change.

"We want people to realise that their electricity is not pulled out of thin air. It is produced by destroying habitat and polluting the environment. New Zealand maintains an excessive lifestyle, exceeding Americans in wastage. Simple changes and an increase in environmental conciousness in this country would stem wastage of energy. If New Zealand is serious about marketing itself as a 'Clean, Green Country', it is time that we started living up to our claims." stated Fiona Gibson

"The mine is just not worth it: there are alternatives. New Zealand has the potential to become much more efficient in its use of electricity, develop wind and solar power, reduce demand, etc. By heading down the coal road we are ignoring the potential for these alternatives. For example, we drove to Westport in a van that runs off used "waste" vegetable oil... Alternatives exist - we just need to use them!" says Rob Cadmus.

References

1 Ngakawau Ecological district Survey report for the Protected Natural Areas Programme, DoC

2 Dean Van Milo - Director General (DoC) submission against proposed "Cypress" mine

3 New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy. sponsored by DoC, MfE, MAF,

4 Philip Knightbridge, DoC, submission on proposed "Cypress" mine

ENDS

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