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Save Happy Valley: protect the climate and a unique wetland ecosystem.


FRANCES MOUNTIER of the Save Happy Valley Coalition reports on the campaign to stop coal mining in a unique sub-al pine wetland ecosystem, home to thirteen endangered species endangered species, any plant or animal species whose ability to survive and reproduce has been jeopardized by human activities. In 1999 the U.S. government, in accordance with the U.S. . The Coalition is selling carbon credits--an excellent investment!--after the state-owned mining company blamed the coalition for reducing its coal production from its opencast Stockton Mine. Solid Energy is a state-owned coal miner, producing over 4.5 million tonnes of coal annually, responsible for the same amount of emissions as all New Zealand's domestic transport emissions annually. Stopping the coal mining operation will help save the climate and endangered species.

Coal is the main threat to climate because there's not enough carbon in conventional oil or natural gas reserves to double the atmosphere's carbon dioxide carbon dioxide, chemical compound, CO2, a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is about one and one-half times as dense as air under ordinary conditions of temperature and pressure. . We can only double the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide through a considerable amount of coal-burning, which is what we seem to be headed toward doing.

Pierrehumbert, 2005:15 (1)

Happy Valley is located approximately 25km north-east of Westport in the Upper Waimangaroa Valley. Nearby Mt Augustus lies on the far side of the opencast Stockton Mine. In 1998 the Department of Conservation recommended Happy Valley as the primary Recommended Area for Protection (RAP) and Mt Augustus as the secondary RAP in the Ngakawau Ecological District. (2) However, protection for the two areas has not been forthcoming: the recommendations were removed after a private meeting between Department of Conservation staff and Solid Energy.

Happy Valley is a colourful mosaic of sub-alpine wetland, old growth beech forests, stunted forests of lush mountain beech and pygmy pine, and dense mats of intricate herbfield plants scattered over striking sandstone rocks and bluffs. It's a nationally significant ecosystem and home to thirteen endangered endemic species, including the absolutely protected landsnail Powelliphanta patrickensis and great spotted kiwi/roa. South Island kaka ka·ka  
A brownish-green New Zealand parrot (Nestor meridionalis).

[Maori kk
, western weka, long-tailed bat, and South Island fern bird are also present in the valley. The area, public land, located 600-800 metres above sea level, is largely untouched, low in pest numbers, and of high conservation value. Solid Energy's own expert witness called it a natural refuge for kiwi kiwi (kē`wē) or apteryx (ăp`tərĭks), common name for the smallest member of an order of primitive flightless birds related to the ostrich, the emu, and the cassowary. .

Opposition to 'Cypress'

Buller Conservation Group Buller Conservation Group is an environmental organisation based in Westport on the West Coast of New Zealand.

The organisation was actively involved in supporting Native Forest Action's campaigns against Timberlands logging of native forest, and Solid Energy's pollution of
 (BCG BCG bacille Calmette-Guérin.

1. bacillus Calmette-Guérin

2. ballistocardiogram

BCG, See bacille Calmette-Guórin.
), Greenpeace, Department of Conservation, Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae, Ngakawau Riverwatch, Green Party, Forest and Bird, and Environmental and Conservation Organizations of New Zealand New Zealand (zē`lənd), island country (2005 est. pop. 4,035,000), 104,454 sq mi (270,534 sq km), in the S Pacific Ocean, over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) SE of Australia. The capital is Wellington; the largest city and leading port is Auckland.  all actively opposed Solid Energy's proposal for a new mine, ('Cypress') in Happy Valley. In April 2004, the Save Happy Valley Coalition (sHVC) was formed to focus on non-violent direct action and raise public awareness. Solid Energy's resource consents were appealed at the Environment Court by Doc, Ngakawau River Watch, Forest and Bird and BCG. Ngakawau Riverwatch sought strict conditions on water standards and settled outside of court. DO C, to the dismay of conservationists, also settled outside of Court. Not only did this remove an important part of opposition to the mine, it also legitimised the destruction and removed the expertise advice of state-funded scientists from the public record.

Ngati Waewae, tangata whenua tangata whenua
Noun, pl


1. the original Polynesian settlers in New Zealand

2. descendents of the original Polynesian settlers [Maori: people of the land]
, said in their submission: "nobody denies a huge debt to Papatuanuku and her children has been incurred due to coal mining and the development of an over-arching plan to begin to right this injustice is appreciated by the tangata whenua and can't come soon enough." (7)

The Happy Valley Environment Court case was lost in May 2005 when Solid Energy made a last minute promise, during the summing up of the case, to 'direct transfer' 12 ha of red tussock wetland. Prominent ecologist Professor Alan Mark declared this unprecedented and not viable after a search of relevant scientific literature. Forest and Bird and BCG appealed to the High Court, but this was unsuccessful in December 2005, largely because the factual finding of the specialist Environment Court on the wetland transfer was unable to be challenged. Solid Energy indicated they intended to start work in Happy Valley in February or March 2006.

Solid Energy's track record

During court proceedings, those opposing the consents were not allowed to raise concerns regarding climate change, or Solid Energy's proposals for further mines down the Waimangaroa Valley in the coming 50 years, or their past environmental record. For example, the lower reaches of the Ngakawau River, long treated as an industrial ditch, are entirely devoid of aquatic life. Solid Energy has made no progress in reducing Acid Mine Drainage Acid mine drainage (AMD), or acid rock drainage (ARD), refers to the outflow of acidic water from (usually) abandoned metal mines or coal mines. However, other areas where the earth has been disturbed (e.g. . The West Coast Regional Council recently found Solid Energy's level of environmental compliance at the Stockton Mine to be 'low, and water quality in the tributary of the Ngakauwau River that drains the mine "extremely poor." (8) Solid Energy have been unable to stop the spread of a fire in 1997 caused by their mining practices at Strongman No 2 mine near Greymouth. The fire now covers a 1000 ha radius and continues to cause damage to Doherty Creek.

Solid Energy: C[O.sub.2] emissions and credits!

Solid Energy produced 4.67 million tonnes of coal in 2006; 2.47 million tonnes of this was for export, and 2.20 million tonnes for domestic use. (9) This State enterprise is responsible annually for emissions approximately equivalent to all our domestic transport emissions in one year! As more than half that coal is exported, it involves a hidden climate change impact, not accounted for in official sources and thus evades our Kyoto obligations. A new mine in Happy Valley would result in emitting another 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

In the last financial year, Solid Energy ripped 4.65m tonnes of coal from the earth. The company recently said it was reducing production for the year by 250,000 tonnes, in part because of protests by Coalition members. So the Save Happy Valley Coalition is selling carbon credits for reducing coal production from its opencast Stockton Mine. This is great news for the climate! Solid Energy cant catch up that lost 250,000 tonnes of production, and 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide was prevented from reaching the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 170,000 New Zealand cars off the road for a year. Buy your carbon credits today and support the campaign to Save Happy Valley! Just $10 for 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide! These are credits that ensure active reductions in emissions, not offsetting using sinks. Now is the time to act on climate change. To buy your Save Happy Valley Coalition carbon credits, email your order and address to and deposit your money +$1 p&p to Save Happy Valley Campaign--38 9003 0334146 00.

Reductions needed

Coal is the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, with carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Each tonne of coal produces 2.4 tonnes of C[O.sub.2]. Impurities in coal add significantly to pollution when coal is burnt. For example, the Huntly power station The Huntly power station is the largest thermal power station in New Zealand and is located in the town of Huntly in the Waikato. It is operated by Genesis Energy, a state-owned enterprise, and supplies around 17% of the country's power.  produces up to 1100 tonnes of sulphur dioxide sulphur dioxide

Chem a strong-smelling colourless soluble gas, used in the manufacture of sulphuric acid and in the preservation of foodstuffs

Noun 1.
 a year. In July 2006, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (Te Kaitiaki Taiao a Te Whare Pāremata in Māori) is an independent Officer of the New Zealand Parliament appointed for a five-year term under the Environment Act 1986.  called for no new coal or gas-fired power stations in Aotearoa. (10)

To combat climate change, a 60-90% reduction in emissions in the developed world is required by 2050. (11) This means we need to take action to reduce our emissions now, including reducing our reliance on coal. Business-as-usual is no longer an option. There needs to be a 'sea-change' in cultural values, with rapid development of climate-friendly technologies alongside dramatic cuts in energy consumption levels.' (12) These changes need to occur as part of a just transition to a low-carbon economy A low-carbon economy is an economy in which carbon dioxide emissions from the use of carbon based fuels (coal, oil and gas) are freezed and significantly reduced.[1]. , with everyone sharing equitably the costs of moving away from fossil fuel fossil fuel: see energy, sources of; fuel.
fossil fuel

Any of a class of materials of biologic origin occurring within the Earth's crust that can be used as a source of energy. Fossil fuels include coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
 dependence. This sea-change in cultural values is not consistent with the New Zealand's Government support for Solid Energy continuing to increase mining coal. Government should be directing Solid Energy to invest in diversifying and developing other industries on the West Coast, and paying for the clean-up of Stockton.


It's critical New Zealand moves away from coal production. Saving Happy Valley would be in keeping with government policy on sustainability and national and international opinion. Biodiversity biodiversity: see biological diversity.

Quantity of plant and animal species found in a given environment. Sometimes habitat diversity (the variety of places where organisms live) and genetic diversity (the variety of traits expressed
 loss and climate change are the greatest environmental threats facing our planet and societies; it's time we achieved some real change.

The occupation

SHVC began an indefinite occupation of Happy Valley on 28 January 2006 in an effort to halt the mines development. Two years later, the occupation continues and the valley remains untouched. Check out for more information; to join us contact our occupation coordinator on or 0212037040. Since February 2007, the Coalition has also occupied Mt Augustus as part of a long running campaign to prevent the extinction of Powelliphanta Augustus'; Solid Energy are currently mining 94% of remaining habitat of this critically-endangered species. Come and celebrate our second successful year of occupying Happy Valley, on 2-3 February 2008.


(1.) R.T. Pierrehumbert, 2005, Climate Change: A Catastrophe in Slow Motion, Professor in Geophysical ge·o·phys·ics  
n. (used with a sing. verb)
The physics of the earth and its environment, including the physics of fields such as meteorology, oceanography, and seismology.
 Sciences at the University of Chicago since 1989. From, p. 15.

(2.) Overmars, F et al (1998) Ngakawau Ecological District Survey Report for Protected Natural Areas Programme, Department of Conservation

(3.) Clark, H., 2007, Prime Minister's Statement to Parliament 13/02/07, Retrieved 11/04/07 from http://www.beehive Beehive (star cluster): see Praesepe.


heraldic and verbal symbol. [Western Folklore: Jobes, 193]

See : Industriousness

(4.) Solid Energy, 2006, Proposed Cypress Opencast Mine, Retrieved 11/04/07 from

(5.) Helen Clark, 29/3/00, Government pledges end to native species extinctions, Retrieved 3/4/07 from http://www.biodiversity.govt.nzlnews/media/archive/ 29maroo_launch.html

(6.) Save Happy Valley Coalition Incorporated v Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd [2006] (EnvC), para 46 and 51.

(7.) Resource Consent hearings: Rick Barber (Land and Environment Te Runanga o Ngati Waewae)

(8.) West Coast Regional Council, Jan-Dec 2006, Staff Annual Compliance Monitoring Report of Solid Energy Mining Activities on the West Coast, 2006

(9.) Solid Energy, 2006, Annual Report, Retrieved 11/4/07 from

(10.) Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Electricity, Energy and the Environment: Making the connections, Retrieved 11/04.07 from

(11.) Rising tide Noun 1. rising tide - the occurrence of incoming water (between a low tide and the following high tide); "a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune" -Shakespeare
flood tide, flood
, 2004, Why 90% cuts in greenhouse gases, Retrieved 3/04/07 from

(12.) Transnational Institute Transnational Institute (TNI) is an international think tank for progressive politics. It was established in 1974 in Amsterdam and serves as a network for scholars and activists. Though now independent, it was established as the international programme of the Washington, D.C. , 2007, The Carbon Neutral Myth, Retrieved 3/04/07 from, p. 8.

* Frances Mountier is a leader and convener of the Save Happy Valley Coalition, PO Box 9263, Te Aro Te Aro is an inner-city suburb of Wellington, New Zealand. It comprises the southern part of the central business district including the majority of the city's entertainment district, and covers the mostly flat area of city between The Terrace and Cambridge Terrace at the base of , Wellington, For more information. To get involved in the campaign, please contact:;


New Zealand needs to go the extra    [The] national biodiversity
mile to lower greenhouse gas         strategy [is] aimed at ending the
emissions and increase               extinctions of native species.
sustainability ... New Zealand has   "The primary goal is to maintain
the potential to lead the world in   and restore a full range of New
its commitment to renewable          Zealand's habitats and ecosystems,
energy. Helen Clark, 13 February     along with populations of all
2007. (3)                            native species across their
                                     natural ranges. This is the bottom
                                     line nationally if we are to
                                     prevent further decline in our
                                     indigenous biodiversity." (Helen
                                     Clark, 29 March 2000. (5))


Solid Energy NZ Ltd is a             Powelliphanta 'Augustus' is a
state-owned enterprise, which        small, isolated population at risk
operates as a commercial company     from catastrophic events. A
but with only one shareholder, the   catastrophic event has now arrived
NZ Government. Solid Energy          in the form of Solid Energy's
expects to start developing the      bulldozers which will destroy much
new mine [in Happy Valley] in        of the snail's known habitat. (6)
2006. About five million tonnes of
coal will be progressively mined
at Cypress over approximately 10
years in two opencast pits
covering 105 hectares. A further
155 hectares will be used for
overburden disposal, roads, water
treatment, facilities and
associated infrastructure. (Solid
Energy's website. (4))
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Title Annotation:SUSTAINABLE PATHWAYS; Save Happy Valley Coalition campaigns for wetland conservation
Author:Mountier, Frances
Publication:Pacific Ecologist
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2007
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