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Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi Perform ‘Letter To Coal Industry’

Ten Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi activists performed a ‘living letter’ to Bathurst coal company at noon today outside Environment Canterbury offices.

Activists covered themselves head to toe in body paint to represent the land and rivers whilst an activist representing the coal industry drove a small digger in front of ECan building. The group sang songs and spoke on behalf of threatened species, streams and trees. 

Their performance highlighted Bathurst’s current application to expand the Canterbury coal mine. The company are applying for consent to dig through wetlands, clear vegetation from riparian regions and discharge contaminants into Tara stream for over 20 years.

“While the entire country has faced massive disruption, the coal industry continue to seek consents that will push the climate further into crisis, ripping ecosystems apart in the process.” Says Extinction Rebellion Ōtautahi spokesperson Siana Fitzjohn.

The atmosphere of the demonstration was potent and peaceful, and while police attended the demonstration their presence was relaxed. 

“We wanted to create a heartfelt performance that demonstrated the catastrophic effects of the coal industry on the living world. Recently we’ve seen how quickly and compassionately kiwis responded when human lives were at stake. We need decision makers to respond to the climate and ecological emergency with the same urgency and compassion.” Says Fitzjohn.

Forest and Bird advocates say the proposed expansion to the mine would destroy wetlands, further pollute the culturally significant Te Waihora catchment, and kill critically endangered mudfish. Other groups have pointed out that expanding the Canterbury coal mine also has further reaching implications.

“If this mine expansion goes ahead, Fonterra will continue burning coal till the cows come home. With the dairy industry keeping Bathurst afloat by buying their coal, Bathurst can push ahead with more and more coal mines on the West Coast.” Says Coal Action Network spokesperson Cindy Baxter.

“We’re concerned that the fast-track process for shovel-ready projects could become another way that the public are excluded from crucial decisions. The RMA is a painfully outdated tool and has not been adapted to address climate change. ECan has declared a climate emergency, and we need to see decision making processes that reflect the severity of our situation.” Says participant Michael Apathy, who dressed as a river for the performance.

Fitzjohn says the group are calling for Bathurst’s application to be refused, and are encouraging people to make submission to ECan by the submission deadline this coming Monday 18th May.

“We’ve seen what Bathurst are doing on the West Coast. It’s heartbreaking and terrifying. We need a just transition away from industries that damage the land and water, and harm future generations. And we need it now.”

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