Augustus OccupationTens of thousands of dollars of court fees, disempowering legal processes, humiliating lobbying and pointless petitions failed to stop the potential extinction of a species and the obliteration of a mountaintop. But it seems a simple camp is currently forcing Solid Energy to halt its operations. Since the 5th of February, members of the Save Happy Valley Coalition have been occupying the Mt. Augustus ridgeline on Department of Conservation land but within the 500m blasting exclusion zone, forcing a cessation of mining activities.

Under a compromise with the Department of Conservation last year, Solid Energy has been allowed to remove the endangered snail species Powelliphanta augustus from its only known habitat and relocate it to another location, against advice from DoC’s own scientists that warned the relocation posed a high risk that the species could be forced to extinction.

DoC made this compromise believing that the value of the coal beneath Mt. Augustus was of too high financial value to justify any potential impasse, and with the recent occupation of the ridgeline DoC has similarly sought to facilitate the mining process by declaring their own land off-limits, thus making the current occupation illegal. Of course, this treachery from DoC is unsurprising given Labour’s stated prioritising of coal as a key industry to the New Zealand economy.

In any case, contrary to my previous post on Happy Valley, I am very excited about this chosen tactic: I only wish we had thought of it earlier! Not only is it an effective direct action but it has potential for widespread participation. Moreover, while we have been declared an illegal occupation, thus far there seems a reluctance to act on the part of police most likely due to the unprecedented nature of DoC’s actions. Indeed, even in the case of State action to further facilitate the destruction of the ridgeline, the terrain will make this relatively difficult, for reasons of access, in terms of finding the occupiers, and in terms of dragging them one by one up the mountainside and into the mine pit.

The debate within the campaign about an effective course of action continues to rage on, but I believe this is certainly a good choice of tactic. The question that still remains, for me, is exactly where this campaign itself fits within broader anarchist and anti-authoritarian struggle…

>> I’ll be out of action for the next week as I’ll be on Augustus <<