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Public meeting on coal mine threats

Australian farmer to speak with Southland communities on coal mine threats

Mataura, Southland, 12 December:

Coal Action Network Aotearoa today announced that Queensland farmer Sid Plant will be addressing a public meeting in Mataura in January to bring his first-hand account of the devastating impacts that open cast coal mining has on farming and the local community.

The public meeting to be held in the Mataura Community Centre on Sunday 22 January will address how large scale lignite mining and processing would affect farming, the economy, employment, and public health in Southland, and the world’s climate.

The public meeting is part of the “Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival” organised by Coal Action Network Aotearoa which is being run to build on the growing opposition to Solid Energy’s plans to mine billions of tonnes of lignite under prime Southland farmland. Solid Energy’s proposal includes a briquetting plant to convert lignite to a more concentrated form, a chemical fertiliser plant and a lignite-to-diesel plant.

We expect many Southlanders will be interested in meeting and hearing from Sid Plant, cattle and grain farmer from Queensland, who is coming across the ditch especially for the festival, and to meet farmers. He will describe what it was like suddenly finding himself living next door to a giant open cast coalmine and the effects on farming and the local community. Mr Plant has held many positions including Cattlemen’s Union State Councillor, State President of the Australian Polled Hereford Society, has had a long and active involvement in Landcare groups, and is an expert on farming in a changing climate.

The health effects of open cast coal mining will be described by Dr Dougal Thorburn, Southern DHB Public Health Medicine Registrar. He will bring international research on health impacts of coal, as well as the relatively new science of the health impacts of climate change.

Dr Peter Barrett from Victoria University, a scientist with an international reputation in Antarctic research, will summarise the latest science on climate change – what is happening now.

Each presentation will be followed by a discussion period where Southland people can engage with the visitors, ask questions, challenge, and debate.

There is no charge for the open day. Lunch will be available to purchase, made by the Mataura Presbyterian Church group which is raising funds for to help their young people do a mission outreach to the Cook Island in 2012. Alongside the speakers, in the senior citizens’ room, will be a market of local produce and crafts, as well as information displays brought by environmental and other groups from around New Zealand. There will also be entertainment from musicians from around Southland.

“This is a great opportunity for an informed discussion between concerned Southlanders and participants in the Coal Action Network Aotearoa festival” said CANA spokesman Kristin Gillies. “The more people understand the climate, health and economic impacts of Solid Energy’s plans the more opposition grows,” concluded Gillies.

The “Keep the Coal in the Hole Summer Festival” will run from 20-23 January on the farm of Mike Dumbar, close to the pilot briquetting plant currently being built.

Registrations for the festival are open online at www.nocoalsummerfest.org.nz


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