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Three generations represented at Solid Energy protest

17 Nov

Three generations of Auckland Coal Action members protested outside the Auckland Town Hall tonight. We were there once again, alerting orchestra patrons to the NZSO’s connection with climate criminal, Solid Energy.

We don’t see why coal sponsorship is still allowed, when it is far more dangerous than tobacco: dangerous to our health and that of the climate we depend on for our survival.

See press release and media coverage of this event.

“Enjoying music thanks to Solid Energy’s coal operations is perverse.”

17 Nov

“The NZSO is vital for our musical culture and places NZ next to other cultural nations who all fund their national orchestras. And while private sponsorship is now common around the world, I don’t know of any government bringing “their” orchestra into a position where it may have to accept a coal-mining company as their major sponsor. Enjoying music thanks to Solid Energy’s coal operations is perverse and embarrassing and today unworthy of a cultural nation.”

Prof Klaus Bosselmann, University of Auckland

Coal sponsorship perverse, says Professor; health effects worse than tobacco

17 Nov

Press release for immediate use – Auckland Coal Action

Saturday 17 November 2012

Tonight Auckland Coal Action (ACA) highlights the immorality of coal with a picket at an NZSO concert sponsored by national coal-miner Solid Energy.

Auckland University Professor Dr Klaus Bosselman comments, “Enjoying music thanks to Solid Energy’s coal operations is perverse and embarrassing and today unworthy of a cultural nation.” [Click here for full quote]

ACA spokesperson Alex Winter-Billington adds, “The NZSO should be fully state funded.”

NZ Herald coverage

According to the World Health Organization, “The effects of climate change on health will impact on most populations in the coming decades and put the lives and well-being of billions of people at increased risk.”1

“If we keep burning coal, the health effects of climate change will be bigger than AIDS, than heart disease, malaria — bigger even than cancer,” Winter-Billington says.

Burning coal releases more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than any other fossil fuel.

The air and water pollutants in coal-mining communities cause significantly higher rates of heart attack, stroke, cancer, birth defects, kidney, liver and brain damage and worsening of pulmonary diseases. 2

“Coal is by far the dirtiest form of energy in terms of climate and air pollution,” Winter-Billington continues, “and it’s worse for people’s health than tobacco ever was; but not just for the people using it, it impacts everyone alive and everyone who’s going to come after us: our children, our grandchildren, everyone.”

“Like tobacco companies in the past, Solid Energy is trying to make itself look like the ‘good guy’ through association with one of our national treasures. That’s not ok. They’re clearly not the ‘good guy’,” says Winter-Billington.

“Coal is today’s tobacco and we don’t tolerate tobacco sponsorship,” she concluded.



1. 2012; Gender, Climate change and Health; World Health Organization.

2. 2011; Toxic Air: The case for cleaning up coal fired power-plants; American Lung Association.

Forbidden Love and a forbidden elephant

19 Oct

The Climate Elephant is barred from the room.

A dozen members of Auckland Coal Action were at the Town Hall again this evening to protest Solid Energy’s sponsorship of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s Forbidden Love. Just like all those dirty tobacco companies, coal company Solid Energy is promoting itself as one of the ‘good guys’ through association with our national orchestra.

We were there to let orchestra patrons know what kind of company was sponsoring the event, giving them copies of our open letter to the NZSO in which we urged the orchestra to ditch Solid Energy.

If we can ban sponsorship by tobacco companies because of the damage caused by their product, then it is high time we banned sponsorship by coal companies. The threat caused by burning coal to our climate is far more serious than tobacco.

Climate change is the elephant in the room when we talk about coal mining, but this evening our very own Climate Elephant was barred from entering the room by security guards.

The elephant, and the urgent problem he represents, are too big to ignore and won’t be going away any time soon.

“We love the NZSO, but coal dirties your good name”

19 Oct

Media Release – Auckland Coal Action

Friday 19 October 2012

Tonight, Auckland Coal Action (ACA) will again picket a Solid Energy sponsored NZSO concert at Auckland Town Hall in protest against the national coal miner.

ACA spokesman Tony Dunlop said “Coal does more harm to the environment and people’s health than tobacco ever has. We took a stand against community sponsorship from big tobacco – why do we still tolerate it from coal?”

Solid Energy sponsors the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

“Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and leading scientists agree that it must stay in the ground if we want to avoid leaving our children and grandchildren with climate chaos.” He commented further.

“Just like all those dirty tobacco companies, Solid Energy is promoting itself as one of the ‘good guys’ through association with our wonderful national orchestra. That’s not OK. They’re not the ‘good guys’.” Mr Dunlop added.

“The NZSO has been compelled to accept dirty sponsorship because of a lack of state funding. We support full state funding for the NZSO and are happy to pay the taxes to support this.” He said.

Mr Dunlop further commented “Before government acted, community organisations refused tobacco sponsorship on moral grounds and that paved the way to a change of legislation. When governments drag their heels, communities must take the lead. And in the case of climate change, there’s no time to lose.”

Auckland Coal Action is an independent community group committed to the ambitious goal of saving future generations from the chaos of runaway climate change.


Letters to the editor in response to NZSO protest

4 Oct

One of the patrons of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra took exception to our presence at the final concert in the ‘Solid Energy Tour’. He was annoyed enough to write to the editor of the New Zealand Herald.

NZ Herald, 1 October 2012

This elicited a number of letters in response, supporting the stance taken by Auckland Coal Action in pointing out the dangers of coal and describing coal sponsorship as akin to tobacco sponsorship.

The following were all published in the NZ Herald’s letters to the editor page on 4 October 2012.

NZ Herald, 4 October 2012

Update, 19 October 2012:

At our second protest of Solid Energy sponsorship, Mike and Lynne met in person for the first time. Both were good sports, despite having disagreed so vehemently in print.

Coal sponsorship, worse than tobacco

29 Sep

Auckland Coal Action ‘attended’ the final show in the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra’s Solid Energy Tour. We held banners at the doors and handed out leaflets to concert-goers with the message that we should no longer accept coal sponsorship.

We support the orchestra, but not its sponsor – so this protest was a friendly one. We’ve outlined our position in an open letter to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Coal, worse than tobacco
We no longer accept tobacco sponsorship of cultural and sporting events, so why should we accept sponsorship from coal companies such as Solid Energy?

Action on climate change is more urgent than ever. There are huge quantities of coal left – enough to raise the temperature of the earth by 15 degrees. To save the planet from runaway climate change, leading scientists advise that we must phase out coal to zero by 2030.

Instead, Solid Energy has plans to massively increase its coal extraction. So it is fair to say that coal is today’s tobacco industry, the evidence of its harm is simply too great to ignore.

Solid Energy – dirty energy, dirty employer
Solid Energy uses sponsorship to try and create a good public image despite the fact that its business is based on extracting coal – the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, and the biggest contributor to climate change.

The company’s recent actions in slashing its workforce show they have as little regard for their workers as they do for the climate. Kristin Gillies makes this point well in his recent Opinion Editorial in the Greymouth Star and Southland Times.

Isn’t any funding of the arts a good thing?
Not when the harm caused by the sponsor to the climate, local environment and its own workers outweighs any benefits by such a large margin.

When sponsorship from tobacco companies was banned, people were concerned that funding for community organizations would dry up. But it didn’t happen – others filled the gap. We call on the government to fully fund the NZSO and are prepared to pay the taxes to support this.

Add your voice to ours!
We invite you to join us in alerting the government to our dissatisfaction that such an important institution has been reduced to accepting sponsorship from a coal mining company by a lack of state support.

If you agree, please email or phone our Minister for Culture and Heritage, and let him know how you feel.
Hon Christopher Finlayson
(04) 817 6808

To contact the NZSO, email: