29 October 2012.
Court Process Deeply Flawed
This week the Environment Court in Christchurch will be hearing the appeal on a proposed coal mine at Denniston on the West Coast.
Buller District Council has approved the proposal of Bathurst Resources and the decision is being appealed by Forest & Bird with support from other organisations.
Canterbury Coal Action strongly supports the appeal and trusts that the court will find that the mining should not be allowed to go ahead.
It is expected that the legal argument will hinge on the conflicting interests of shareholders seeking a return on their investment (Bathurst) versus protection of threatened landscapes and biodiversity (Forest & Bird). Important arguments, all of them.
But no-one is talking about the elephant in the room – Climate Change.
The court will not be able to hear evidence about the most pressing concern that faces humanity in the early 21st Century. Climate Change has the potential to threaten all economic activity, and will certainly lead to significant losses of biodiversity and human life. So no-one wins if Climate Change is allowed to run out of control.
In New Zealand we currently have a remarkable situation in that our premier piece of environmental legislation, the Resource Management Act, can only consider the effects OF climate change, but not the effects ON climate change. So the court is not able to learn how every tonne of coal that might be extracted from Denniston will add to an already pressing problem of too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
As such the court process this week is deeply flawed – it is only hearing part of the evidence.
What happened to “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” ?
Would a murder trial proceed without the key witness?
Would a fraud trial proceed without the accountants?
So it is unrealistic to expect a court case about coal mining to proceed without hearing climate change evidence.
A recent court decision announced that it is the responsibility of Central Government to set in place policies and plans to counter climate change. So we call on Central Government to use its powers under Urgency to swiftly reform the Resource Management Act so that the whole truth of coal mining can be told in court.
New Zealand’s “Clean Green“ image is already under pressure. By acting quickly and appropriately now, the Government can protect our international reputation and restore the integrity of our court processes.