Pie fights, dirty energy and homeless snails
So Solid Energy nearly got a face full of custard … fired at them by environmental protestors at their AGM.
Solid Energy has been literally trying to put the fires out over recent months on many fronts and this latest embattlement is symptomatic of an industry that hasn’t got a future. Problems with their safety record on the extensive coal sites on the West Coast have lead to emergency measures to reduce staff incidents.
Recently they also released a video showing the ‘success’ of their commitment to translocate the Powelliphanta snail from their hightop on Mt Augustus.
Short story goes like this. Snails, evolved over a few millennia, are isolated on to the moist top of Mt Augustus with a steep forest dropping away to the west and hostile ‘coal measure’country to the east. Sanctuary for them … but sitting on top of coal that Solid Energy wanted to get out of the ground and off to Japan for burning in steel mines. Great idea in the time of global warming eh?
So, Forest & Bird heads off to Court and gets a declaration that they can’t just mine it without doing something to protect the snails. The idea was that they could leave 5 hectares of hill top – really a small price to pay to stop a species’ extinction.
But no, Solid Energy go the whole hog and employ people to scour the hillsides and remove every Powelliphanta Augustus on site (by the way, they ignored other important species like geckos, peripatus, etc) … Result: a few thousand snails sitting in ice-cream containers in portable fridge units at Hokitika.
Next plan: translocate the snails back on to habitat where they were taken from. Problem? No habitat. So Solid Energy and Department of Conservation start trialling sites with two thirds the species while keeping the rest in those ice-cream containers and see if they’ll start breeding in little glass fridges controlled to mimic the wilds of Mt Augustus hilltop – almost laughable if we weren’t talking about a species faced with extinction.
So the trials have showed that none of the sites so far are suitable (the snails just keep dying faster than they can breed), and the ones in captivity aren’t warming to the idea of nuptials to maintain their population. Trouble is, Solid Energy call it a success story. It seems they’re reading from a make-believe script.
You’d think that would be the end – but wait, there’s more. Crown Minerals has issued Solid Energy a permit to explore for coal on another 2000 hectares of conservation land just below the infamous Mt Augustus. Makes you wonder really … has Solid Energy really considered what sustainability means? That species extinction really does last for ever? And that playing with our biodiversity to pursue such earth damaging practices is something that should’ve been written out of our laws a long time ago?
Solid Energy deserves a brickbat rather than a custard pie. It is willingly leading one of our oldest species to extinction. Perhaps it should be them that retires gracefully into extinction.