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Landmark Coal Case For Future Generations

Forest & Bird is acting on behalf of future generations in taking the Southland District Council to court over coal exploration expansion, says Chief Executive Kevin Hague. 

Papers were served this week on the Southland District Council, seeking a judicial review of its decision to allow Bathurst Resources Limited to explore for a new coal mine on council land near Nightcaps. 

“For a safe climate, we cannot have any new coal mines,” says Mr Hague. “The International Energy Agency has called for an immediate end to new coal mines and the UN secretary-general has said all planned coal projects should be cancelled. We need to act now.”

Forest & Bird Youth leaders have provided affidavits in support of the case, including 17-year-old George Hobson and Nightcaps local Gemma Marnane. 

“Having grown up in Southland, I know youth in my community are fearful of the impacts of the climate and biodiversity crisis,” says Ms Marnane.

“It’s our future, and the future of coming generations, that will be the most impacted by the effects of the climate and biodiversity crises. Our elected decision makers need to step up and tackle these threats head on.”

Internationally, young people are taking governments to court – and winning – over their failure to adequately address climate change. There is increasing recognition that future generations have a right to live in a world not devastated by a climate crisis. 

Forest & Bird’s case claims that the Southland District Council made the decision unlawfully because it failed to properly consider the implications of climate change, and the impact climate change will have on the district, including for future generations. 

The effects of climate change are already starting to be felt, Mr Hague says. “Southland experienced massive floods last year, which not only had an impact on homes and farms but also on Aotearoa’s largest national park in Fiordland.

“Iconic southern birds such as the Antipodean albatross or hoiho/yellow-eyed penguins are already on the brink, and climate change is forcing them closer to extinction. 

“In New Zealand the coal industry still has years of consented mining. Allowing new or expanded coal mines through the 2020s would lock us into high-emissions scenarios for decades to come. 

“If we want our grandchildren to live in a world that is safe and has clean water, then we need to act now.” 

-Earlier this month Forest & Bird Youth led a call by nine of New Zealand’s environmental organisations urging Southland District Council to reconsider its decision to allow access for exploration. 
-At Forest & Bird’s annual conference last month Chief Executive Kevin Hague called on the Government to stop all new and expanded coal mines. 
-Forest & Bird has spent decades trying to protect the ecologically diverse Buller Plateau from opencast coal mining operations. This includes Happy Valley on the Stockton Plateau, the mothballed Escarpment Mine on the Denniston Plateau, and ongoing legal challenges against a new proposed mine at Te Kuha.

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