The Watchdog

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Govt’s hidden plans for coal and oil – is the Pike River Mine ‘Whistleblower’ right?

8 April 2011

Is the Pike River Mine ‘Whistleblower’ right?

“Pike River Coal Ltd was never ever going to realistically make a profit as an underground mine with such an inappropriate access tunnel rising into the hugely expensive methane gas problems at the coal face alongside a major earthquake fault. The highly restrictive environmental restrictions placed on it in the conservation park by the Department of Conservation added to the problems.

However, its special approval to operate in a New Zealand National Conservation Park was seen as a major ³stepping stone´ by international investors to ³open the door´ to extensiveexploration and ³opencast´ mining development by foreign companies in the country¶senvironmentally protected areas, despite widespread public opposition to such plans.”

Govt’s hidden plans for coal and oil

By Isaac Davison

5:30 AM Tuesday Apr 5, 2011
Maari oilfield off the coast of Taranaki. Photo / Supplied 

Maari oilfield off the coast of Taranaki. Photo / Supplied

An accidentally released paper shows the Government is intending to hugely expand its coal and oil sectors.

The revised energy strategy reaffirms the goal of 90 per cent renewable energy by 2025, while also stating that its highest priority will be increasing its oil, gas and coal exports.

The document has not yet been presented to Parliament, but has been leaked online. The strategies outlined in Developing Our Energy Potential have been described as backward by environmentalists, and lacking a clear, detailed path to cleaner energies.

Critics said it was nearly identical to a draft version released by the Ministry of Economic Development last July, despite hundreds of submissions. All 12 priorities remained the same, with the reduction of greenhouse gases at the bottom of the pile.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said if the paper was signed off without alterations, it could soon lock New Zealand into years of policy which encouraged pollution. Its release followed recent developments in offshore oil surveying, lignite mining and Government investment in road networks.

The paper said that New Zealand should become a “highly attractive global destination” for oil exploration, with expansion of the oil and coal sectors leading to a “step change” in the country’s economic growth.

The second-highest priority was developing renewable energies. But WWF climate-change campaigner Peter Hardstaff said the report did not provide a comprehensive plan for raising clean energy from 70 to 90 per cent.

“This isn’t a strategy, it is a series of vague intentions.”

He said the only firm policy in place was the Emissions Trading Scheme, and the Government seemed content to trust the market to influence change.

Acting Energy and Resources Minister Hekia Parata said yesterday that she would not comment on the paper until it was presented to the Cabinet – expected to be in the next three weeks.

She referred to positive comments in the International Energy Agency’s review of New Zealand’s energy policy, released last week.

The IEA praised New Zealand’s bold goal for renewables, calling it a “large step in the right direction”. The country is on target to reach 74 per cent renewable energy, the highest in 12 years. But the review also said the Government’s strategy documents “lacked firm commitments” and were “missing a firm set of actions to achieve … stated goals”.

Green Party energy spokesman Kennedy Graham said the leaked paper offered no protection against the rising price of oil, despite acknowledging the problem in its first pages.

The Government indicated in the paper that it would “not pick winners”, instead leaving uptake of new energy resources to investors and consumers.

The number of submissions on the draft paper is also a point of contention. The ministry said it received 357 unique submissions, but conservation groups said this effectively discounted more than 3000 automated submissions sent through their organisations.

By Isaac Davison | Email Isaac

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April 8, 2011 - Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Fighting corruption internationally, Internationally significant information

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