Wed, 27 Feb 2013 4:34 pm – Posted by Jay | No Comments
Until a week ago, Solid Energy appeared to be the one of the prize jewels in the portfolio of state assets that the Government intended to sell. Now the company seems set to become a huge, slowly-dying albatross around taxpayer’s necks.
Here at Forest & Bird we don’t like the idea of dying albatross, metaphoric or otherwise. If Solid Energy were to go under, more than a thousand people would lose their jobs; more jobs again would be lost amongst those companies that contract to Solid Energy.
The Government is blaming Solid Energy’s investment in ‘alternative fuels’ as being a key reason why the company is failing. That’s like saying only that the Titanic was unsinkable, without mentioning the whole story.
In this context, the term ‘alternative fuels’ is misleading. Few of these ‘alternatives’ offered any kind of solution to the fact that all fossil-fuels contribute to climate change.
One of these projects involved setting fire to underground coal seams in the Waikato, and then trying to collect the gas that leaked from the mini-hell created below. It sounds in the telling like something that would have been dreamt up by a man wearing an animal skin, and carrying a club (a logical next step for Solid Energy would be to recreate the iron age Cerne Giant on the hills above Huntly).
Solid Energy’s other foray into ‘alternative fuels’ was a leap forward, but only as far as the 1940s, when the Germans were pushing to turn brown coal (the lowest quality coal there is, if that’s not an oxymoron) into diesel. Solid Energy also planned to create fertiliser, and convenient, planet-destroying briquettes, out of its Southland lignite. It intended to spend five billion doing so.
The company did invest in turning wood waste into fuel for domestic wood burners. And it did invest in bio fuels. But when the National Government scuppered the law that would have one day required all petrol and diesel to contain a small percentage of bio-fuel, the bottom fell out of that market (at the same time, the Government has been subsidising the deep sea oil industry to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, by carrying out deep sea seismic surveys).
The global recognition of CO2 as being a dangerous pollutant is not why Solid Energy is in trouble – though it would have only been a matter of time. The company is failing for several reasons, including the high New Zealand dollar, and the worldwide slump in demand for coal, as triggered by the GFC. But any company that relies on selling fossil fuels has no long-term future.
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Mon, 03 Dec 2012 11:10 am – Posted by Mandy | 6 Comments
The kakapo has been pinned with many adjectives. Shy, frisky, curious and romantic are ones that crop up most often, however one that is noticeably absent from the usual list of descriptors is ‘gloriously perfumed’. The cover of darkness means that fabulously coloured plumage will go unnoticed by potential mates. So instead it smells. Great. It’s like its feathers have been dipped in a musky array of essential oils that could come straight from a Middle Eastern perfumier. And since becoming a full-time bush waitress, I’ve become rather obsessed with scouring their feeding area for stray feathers so I can cop a generous nose-full.
Luke gets a health inspection and weighs in at a healthy 2.5 kilos.
At 2.5 kilos, he’s big enough to boom.
A feed-out volunteer, Jenny Galt, downloads data on the movements of the various kakapo in the near vicinity.
Mandy “bush waitress” – every three days volunteers replenish the food stations of key kakapo on the island.
I’m here for two weeks to feed many of the females (and a handful of males) on Codfish island (Whenua Hou) – the epicentre of operation save kakapo – to encourage this critically endangered parrot to breed. Engorge these would-be mothers with food, and you’ll end up with males, lighten the servings and there’s a good chance you’ll have a lot of females on your hands. It’s a rather ingenious method of keeping the population stemmed at a time when food is scarce. This year, team kakapo is hoping for a new swag of females, so they’re easing back on the supplementary food portions. The pellet mix is nutritionally similar to the rimu fruit – which is one of the mystical plants that helps them to breed.
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Fri, 21 Sep 2012 12:12 pm – Posted by Mandy | No Comments
Anyone who got up this morning and tuned into this story on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report can be forgiven for thinking that they woke up in Opposite Land.
In the same week that Bolivia passed a law to protect its native freshwater dolphins from fishing and pollution, New Zealand voted against a resolution to protect our Maui’s dolphins from fishing impacts at the world’s largest conservation meeting.
Maui’s dolphin, photo: Nic Toki
New Zealand, the country that promotes itself as 100% Pure to the world, was one of only two countries to vote AGAINST crucial protection for our Maui’s dolphin in an IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea. The majority (117) of countries voted for New Zealand to ban gill netting and increase observer coverage where the dolphins are found.
According to the RNZ report, the anonymous vote was revealed only after a Department of Conservation staff member told the congress that the Ministry for Primary Industries had instructed it to vote that way. However, a statement put out by the department later said that didn’t occur – something’s fishy here (or should that be “mammal-y”?).
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Thu, 27 Oct 2011 7:58 am – Posted by Phil Bilbrough | 1 Comment
Blogger: Campaign Manager for the whio and Forest & Bird’s Marketing and Promotions Project Manager, Phil Bilbrough
The whio (or Blue Duck) is a seriously cool bird. It lives in white water. It is a torrent duck, and how cool is that? If kayaking is a cool whitewater sport but it is just a sport, then the whio who make white water their home, well… they must be ice cool.
Blue Duck, Photo: Craig McKenzie
It is a truly beautiful bird. Its grey feathers with flecks of brown is subtle, textured and stunning. There is something Yves Saint Laurent about its palette - these colours aren’t usually seen together but combine beautifully. It evokes both the rocks and wildness of a mountain river and serenity of nature.
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Tue, 28 Sep 2010 9:41 am – Posted by Mandy | 1 Comment
Guest blogger: Forest & Bird’s Conservation Advocate Quentin Duthie
The Government is sharpening bulldozer blades and oil-rig drills. It’s prioritising digging and drilling for non-renewable resources over regulation and protection of the natural environment that our economy depends on.
Undeterred by the embarrassing u-turn on Schedule 4, Minister Brownlee is charging ahead with efforts to facilitate mining wherever possible. A review of the Crown Minerals Act, while quite technical, means making mining permits easier to get. More alarming is the Minster’s blatant advocacy for mining, unmatched by Government advocacy for the environment.
From the intoxicating fumes of the petroleum industry conference, the Minister announced a massive funding boost Crown Minerals – the agency that calls the mining industry “clients”. Unsurprising there is no corresponding boost for the Department of Conservation to advocate for the other side of the coin (just a $13.5m p.a. cut). This reflects the priorities in the proposed Energy Strategy: “develop resources” first, “environmental responsibility” fourth.
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Wed, 23 Jun 2010 2:02 pm – Posted by Mandy | No Comments
Guest blogger: Forest & Bird’s conservation advocate Quentin Duthie
Forest & Bird is concerned about a proposed “Game Animal Council” that would take over management of four of the largest and most tasty pest animals in New Zealand – deer, pigs, thar and chamois.
Deer ravaged forest, photo courtesy of DOC
We think it’s essential that management of these pest animals and their impact on the ecology of our public conservation lands remain with the Department of Conservation.
Unfortunately the new proposal differs from a panel recommendation in 2008, that affirmed that conservation remains the priority.
Many groups have an interest in pest animal management – hunters, conservationists, tourists, farmers, you name it – and it is important that a government agency can manage the challenges of pest managment and the conflicts between stakeholders.
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Mon, 31 May 2010 11:50 am – Posted by Mandy | No Comments
Blogger: Forest & Bird conservation advocate Quentin Duthie
There’s an old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
It’s sort of true with mining in Schedule 4 lands too.
To stretch the metaphor to the case of Schedule 4 mining, getting the ‘bird’ buried under the bush will mean we lose the bird in hand and the two in the bush.
We’ll also badly damage the bush itself, and potentially scare off quite a few of the 1.6 million birds* that fly in to enjoy the bush every year.
This is pretty much the overall conclusion of three economics reports that Forest & Bird commissioned and appended to its submission on Schedule 4 mining.
They’re well worth a read, along with our submission.
Update: Celebrated physicist Professor Sir Paul Callaghan concurs. He said last week that the Government’s plans to mine on conservation land are “stupid economics”.
* 1.6 million international tourists participate in nature-based activities in New Zealand each year
Wed, 03 Jun 2009 9:28 am – Posted by Guest | 2 Comments
Guest blogger: Builder-cum-kea enthusiast Corey Mosen
Kea, Tom Marshall
Due to being such a terrific ‘pack horse’ on the first trip I was lucky enough to be offered another chance to help Clio again, this time at Mt Cook and this time with my expenses paid. Here we had the same objective; to catch, band, blood test and observe as many kea as possible.
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Tue, 19 May 2009 12:33 pm – Posted by Tom | 5 Comments
Yellow eyed penguin, Andrew Walmsley
Guest blogger – Photographer, Tom Marshall
A comment my colleague and I often get as New Zealand photographers is ‘you must have had a wonderful time in Antarctica’. As much as I’d love to say ‘yes, it was awesome, but a bit chilly’, the truth is we’ve never set foot south of Dunedin and people are usually looking at our pictures of Fiordland Crested or Yellow-eyed Penguins.
Now I love ‘Happy Feet’ and ‘March of the Penguins’ with their iceberg-strewn backdrops as much as the next person, but it’s surprising how few people realize that we have some of the most amazing – and rarest penguins on the planet are right on our doorstep.
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said recently of a new tourism drive ‘I doubt tourists will want to come to the South Island just to see a penguin’ – but why not? From recollection they were fairly thin on the ground north of the equator last time I was there, and with a million birdwatchers in the UK alone, I’m sure there’s plenty of people who’d willingly put up with the West Coast’s finest sandflies for a glimpse of a Fiordland Crested Penguin in his dapper dinner jacket.
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Tue, 05 May 2009 10:54 am – Posted by Guest | 2 Comments
Guest blogger: Vicki Connor, Communications Team Manager at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority
Our demand for energy – electricity for our homes and petrol and diesel for our cars keeps rising. Some of it is down to population growth, but a lot of it is simply because as individuals we are using and doing more stuff. We drive more, buy more products and appliances and use them for longer.
The average NZ home has two televisions and chances are they are not small - plasma flat screen TVs tend to be between 42 to 100 inches, and can use around three times the electricity of a smaller traditional cathode ray tube set. We buy these things because many of us want them. We like watching TV and, if we can afford it, we want to watch it on a state-of-the-art, massive screen. Just because it looks better. It’s the same as wanting to drive instead of taking the bus. It can be more convenient, more comfortable, easier. And isn’t an easy life what many of us are after? And it’s a free country after all.
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