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.

Government changes 1 billion tree target to half a billion

NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is denying that the Government is backtracking over its goal to plant 1 billion trees over 10 years, saying it was always going to be in partnership with the private sector.

Forestry and Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones told the National Business Review today that the Government was going to plant about half of the 1 billion trees, while the private sector would plant the rest.

“[The one billion goal] is not something that is going to be pursued in isolation from the industry. If we work together, if they continue with their 50 million [a year] over 10 years and we continue with 50 million [a year] over 10 years, you get to a billion.”

This is pretty dishonest. Had the government partnered with the private sector to plant the billion new trees over the next 10 years, that would be fine.

However, the 50 million trees planted by the industry are only planted to replace trees that they’ve already cut down. That’s net zero trees from the industry. In fact, we’ll need to be planting more than that, as the trees planted in the 1990s have been forested.

This is just more fudging of the numbers. Half a billion isn’t enough, hence the promise of 1 billion. It’s quite disappointing to see this from a promising government.

Greenpeace:

In response to the Greens’ climate policy announcements today, Greenpeace climate campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the Greens should be applauded for their climate policy.

‘It’s exactly the sort of response to the biggest threat facing humanity that we need to see from our leaders. All political parties should be adopting this policy, aiming for New Zealand to have 100% renewable electricity, to be carbon neutral by 2050, and with clear legislative plans to get us there.’

The choice is clearer than ever. Climate change is hurting every generation now. While Jacinda talks the talk, Labour policy only tinkers around the edges. Let’s not forget that Labour still supports drilling for oil.

‘While Labour’s climate policy, released on Friday, has the bones of a good climate policy, and also aims for New Zealand to be carbon neutral by 2050, it lacks the Greens’ will to immediately put a stop to polluting activities, like burning oil, coal, and gas, that we know are the driving force behind climate change.’

‘It’s pretty disappointing that Labour can’t just commit to killing National’s deep sea oil exploration programme. The industry is on its last legs anyway, and we don’t need a climate commission to tell us that this is the frontier oil that would tip our climate over the edge if it’s burnt. For us to have a future, the oil industry must have no future. Government policy must actively hasten the end of oil.’

Greenpeace is totally correct. If we want to become world leaders in progress like we once were, we need to take real action on climate change. New Zealand depends on it, the next generation definitely depends on it, and the entire bloody world depends on it.