Consider this

Old industry cities get shafted

Is it something in the water in Newcastle and Ipswich? Both cities grew from coal, but Newcastle councillors recently voted to divest from non-renewables (i.e coal), and Ipswich councillors voted to ban further coal and coal seam gas mining. What ignorant ingrates.

Driving into Newcastle from the north, a single and forlorn wind turbine comes into view, right next to coal storage at the wharf. Dining in one of the waterfront restaurants, the preserve of teachers, doctors and lawyers, coal ships glide silently in and out of the harbour. A beautiful sight to behold.

Not enough to sit and watch the passing parade of the things that provide wealth and employment to mere mortals, the Newcastle city councillors voted to sell down its holdings in the big four banks if they continue to fund fossil fuels projects.

Not enough to live from the legacy of coal and coal seam gas, the Ipswich city councillors adopted a policy to block any new mine or extension to existing mines in the city.

Where do these people get their ideas?

Why can’t they celebrate earlier and enduring forms of wealth and look to new forms? Instead they spit at the old as if it is evil. Is it evil to have created wealth that allows the professional (and other) classes to prosper?

Eighty per cent of the City of Newcastle Council’s $270 million investment portfolio is held in the big four banks. The councillors voted six to five to divest holdings in the banks for more ‘environmentally and socially responsible’ institutions. Believe me, wind turbines are not environmentally responsible.

Labor councillor Declan Clausen, who moved the motion, was reported to have said the coal industry in NSW ‘understands the writing is on the wall, coal is not going to be a leader long into the future’ and suggested clean technology could, in part, replace coal’s economic contribution. According to the NSW Minerals Council, last year mining spent $1.8 billion in the City of Newcastle and $5.9 billion in the Hunter region. That is a lot to replace Declan, and your forlorn wind turbine is not going to do the job. Indeed, wind turbines are so expensive relative to coal that they cost jobs.

Declan got up a real head of steam and promised that the council would invest in banks that ‘don’t invest in things that produce pollutants, greenhouse gases, habitat destruction, uranium, potentially abuse human rights, have involvement in bribery and corruption, or the manufacturing of alcohol, tobacco or gambling products.’ Nothing, but nothing, dear Declan produces no pollutants, no greenhouse gases, and does not destroy some habitat.

Wind turbines and solar panels do all of these and more. I bet the workers who manufacture and install them drink grog and have a little flutter on the nags. Mind you, uranium and nuclear energy, measure for measure probably causes the least harm, but then again this is not about analysis, this is about glorious moral vanity.

Newcastle City Council accepted a $12 million offer from Port Waratah Coal Services as part of plans to build a fourth coal terminal in the Port of Newcastle, weeks before Clausen’s motion to divest.

Apparently, two Greens councillors dissented to the planning agreement, on the grounds that Port Waratah should pay more under the deal. That’s right, our little green friends love to screw capital out of capitalists, but what happens when the money runs out?

Ipswich has a similar tale

Labor councillor Paul Tully said coal mining and coal seam gas extraction ‘were incompatible with environmental outcomes, urban growth and the future liveability’ for Ipswich residents.

‘Our position under this policy is not to revoke existing leases, not to close down existing mines but to work with the mining owners and with the state government to ensure that no new leases are granted … by the state government within our region.’

The city only has one active mine left but there are still seven coal exploration permits in the area. The move has no legal effect, because the State Government, not councils, determine mining applications.

It appears that the council is dirty because they were not consulted when a new coal mine at New Chum, five kilometres from the centre of Ipswich, had been given environmental approval by the state only recently.

It would have been more sensible for the Ipswich councillors to consider these matters on a case by case basis. Near-city mines are not rare and mines can be rehabilitated, which is where the council could prove useful.

Cattle love rehabilitated land

Meanwhile, those nasty miners have gone and let cattle graze on rehabilitated land. And guess what, they loved it. A scientific grazing trial reported in June this year in the Ipswich region compared the livestock production performance of rehabilitated land with that of unmined land at Acland Pastoral Company. Rehabilitated sites outperformed unmined land.

New Hope established the Acland Pastoral Company in 2006, as a farming, grazing and land management enterprise based at the New Acland mine.

This is the stuff of corporate responsibility – turning business minds to solve problems, not championing ’causes’ remote from shareholder interests.