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6 Mnth Occupation: Valley Declared Autonomous Zone

Land Occupation Reaches 6 Months: Happy Valley Declared an Autonomous Zone

Media Release: Save Happy Valley Coalition
28th July 2006

The occupation of Happy Valley, on the West Coast, turns six months today. The Save Happy Valley Coalition, which has been blocking Solid Energy's attempts to turn the Valley into an open-cast coal mine, has commemorated the anniversary by declaring the entire Waimangaroa Valley [1] an 'Autonomous zone.'

"Today, the delicate ecosystems of Happy Valley cease to exist merely as a source of revenue for Solid Energy, and now exist only for themselves. The Save Happy Valley Coalition [2] reaffirms its commitment to employ non-violent direct action to defend Happy Valley from both the digger and dynamite of state owned enterprise Solid Energy. By declaring the Valley as an autonomous zone [3], the Coalition has taken practical steps to ensure its protection," said Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier.

"We have no illusions. As far the economic logic of the New Zealand and global economy is concerned, Happy Valley counts as little more than another short-term income source with a few ancient and threatened species blocking the way. This is despite the significant economic, social and environmental costs that we face if we do not address climate change. The dictates of profit, expansion and growth are directly opposed to genuine environmental and economic sustainability and we therefore declare Happy Valley autonomous of these economic imperatives.

"For Happy Valley, its not pests, it's the New Zealand government that has proven the greatest danger. The Government's Resource Management process, its Environmental and High Courts, and the Department of Conservation have all legitimised the wholesale destruction of Happy Valley by their state owned enterprise Solid Energy. The Department of Conservation, in particular, has approved more than 90% of mining applications on land it has been tasked with managing and protecting. In the case of Happy Valley, the Department of Conservation withdrew all its legal challenges against Solid Energy, subject to a few meagre and ineffective concessions, as part of an out-of-court settlement.

"Over 300 supporters have made the arduous tramp into Happy Valley since the beginning of the occupation, and local groups have been operating from Auckland to Dunedin. Rising awareness of climate change is strengthening opposition to the burning of coal and its subsequent release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There is also immense support for saving declining habitat of Roroa (great spotted kiwi) and the twelve other threatened species which live in Happy Valley.

"In the course of this campaign we've come up against camouflaged spies, overzealous security guards and a police roadblock. In the face of this we are still here, there is no mine and the Waimangaroa Valley is still intact, and as beautiful as ever."




1. Solid Energy has plans for a number of coal mines further down the Waimangaroa Valley in addition to its planned Cypress Mine in Happy Valley.

2. The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy's proposed open cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley) on the West Coast. They work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy – such as the Powelliphanta snail at the nearby Mt Augustus. The Coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers and the general public. The group has a track record of creative protests, occupations and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at http://www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm

3. An autonomous zone is a socio-political tactic of creating space that eludes formal structures of control. In New Zealand, The Independent State of Aramoana was declared in 1980 as part of a successful attempt to prevent the construction of an aluminium smelter at the head of the Otago Harbour. An autonomous zone differs from the Independent State Of Aramoana in that it does not make any claim for control, ownership or sovereignty over the land. It exists solely in, of and for itself. In Denmark, Freetown Christiania has traditionally been an example of an autonomous zone.

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