The rejection of the Rocky Hill mine in NSW is a big win, but impossible in Aotearoa

Yesterday it was reported that the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine in New South Wales had been stopped, after the NSW Land and Environment Court, following much activism from the local community, ruled that the NSW government was right to reject the mine because of its impact on climate change and its impact on the community.

A consent authority cannot rationally approve a development that is likely to have some identified environmental impact on the theoretical possibility that the environmental impact will be mitigated or offset by some unspecified and uncertain action at some unspecified and uncertain time in the future.


This sets an exciting precedent in NSW for the future rejection of new coal mines. We know that we’ve got just 12 years to act on climate change, and that if Australia wants to fulfil its obligations to keep warming below 2°C, let alone the crucial 1.5°C limit, Australia has to keep 90% of its coal reserves in the ground, unburned

But this same kind of decision is impossible in Aotearoa New Zealand, with the Resource Management Act explicitly prohibiting consent authorities and regional councils from considering the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate breakdown when considering an application for a discharge permit or when making rules to control GHG discharges respectively.

These rules were introduced in 2004 by the Labour government, with the idea to require negative impacts from GHG emissions to be dealt with at the national level, not at the local level, whilst allowing positive effects of renewable energy to be still judged locally. The Associate Minister of Energy argued that by restricting Regional Councils from applying controls, the bill restricted the potential for duplication of regulation and restricted the potential for restrictions placed at the local level to conflict with ‘national objectives. Except, there still hasn’t been any kind of national standard introduced or implemented, leaving Regional Councils unable to control GHG emissions through their regional plans and resource consents so that they do not duplicate or conflict with non-existent national controls

Central government has failed to take action, and central government has barred local government from taking action in its absence.

From a reformist angle, Aotearoa New Zealand needs significant reform to the Resource Management Act to combat the large carve-outs that have allowed significant degradation to our climate and our waterways- even just the act of farming, an activity responsible for extreme pollution of our climate and waterways, is exempt from needing a resource consent.

Our consenting regime can learn a thing or two from New South Wales.

It’s not even been a day, but government representatives of Australia’s ruling Liberal Party are already taking potshots at our new Labour government and trying to sow doubts about Ardern’s potential success.

Newshub:

Then Employment Minister Michaelia Cash on Thursday night suggested the new NZ government may be destined to fail.

“History shows that unfortunately the last time the Labour, Greens and independents formed Government it didn’t end well,” Senator Cash told 2GB radio, before praising the previous government led by John Key and Bill English.

The Australian government criticised the Labour Party for meddling in Australian politics earlier this year, even though the Labour Party didn’t really. Yet now they’re happy to insinuate this government is destined to fail?

Then the Liberal Party Premier for NSW tweeted this:

New Zealanders don’t like being told to move to Australia because our new government apparently won’t have “great infrastructure, a growing economy and jobs”. This is another clear attack on Jacinda’s new government, and it’s disappointing to see such petty partisanship from the Premier of NSW.

That’s on top of their partisan newspapers trying to undermine the victory, failing to understand a single basic principle of MMP:

Turnbull should reign his senators and members in.

By Tomas Munita for The New York Times
Oma Salema, 12, held her undernourished brother Ayub Khan, 1, at a camp for Rohingya in Sittwe, Myanmar. Some 140,000 Rohingya live here in rows of flimsy bamboo huts without electricity. Raw sewage flows through open concrete drains, and children are commonly undernourished. Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Currently Myanmar is waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing (genocide) against the Muslim Rohingya minority. Unsurprisingly, Australia is continuing to refuse help to any refugee, and is now even going so far as they try to pay Rohingya refugees thousands of dollars to return to Myanmar. Paying them to return to a genocide waged against them.

The Guardian reports:

Australia is promising thousands of dollars to Rohingya refugees who agree to return to Myanmar, a country that has been accused of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim minority.

Asylum seekers in the Australian-run detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, have been pressured by officials to return to their home countries, even if they face violence.

Papua New Guinea’s supreme court last year ruled the centre for around 800 people breached human rights, was illegal and must close. Australia has since ratcheted up efforts to clear the centre, offering up to A$25,000 to refugees agreeing to go home.

Returning Rohingya to their country could put their lives at risk. Myanmar does not recognise the ethnic minority and has conducted military operations in Rohingya villages that the United Nations’ top human rights official branded “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Close to 400,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many with bullet wounds and stories of mass killings, as their villages burn.

This is absolutely barbaric and heartless behaviour from Australia. Worse than not accepting them, they are pressuring these refugees to return to actual genocide. This certainly verges on violating international refugee law, if it doesn’t already.