Silica, not Lignite Should be Southland's Future
Southland is pasture rich and mineral rich and we have choices in how we manage these resources for the long term benefits of the region.
This Government has clearly stated that fossil fuels will support the immediate future of this country and Solid Energy has plans for to convert fertile pasture into open cast lignite mines. Solid Energy and the Government claim we need the urea and diesel that can be extracted from the lignite even though the production process and use of these products will be hugely polluting. Lignite is the worst source of diesel and our rivers do not need more urea pouring into them.
The loss of pasture land to the huge open cast mines that will be created ignores the long term future of the southland region. Once the lignite is extracted there are no plans to restore the land for farming but create a series of "recreational lakes". With huge regions of the world's farmland becoming saline infused deserts, through poor water management and over intensification, fertile food producing land will be worth more than gold. For us to destroy the longterm future of our farmland, for a short term gain, is shortsighted and stealing from our children's future.
While the National Government is obsessed with fossil fuel they have ignored the huge and growing alternative energy industry. There has been a growth in the solar energy sector alone of over 120%, this is a growth industry with a real future and Southland is poised to be part of this. We do have heaps of lignite but we also have heaps of high quality silica, which is a an important component in solar panels. Unlike lignite, the silica is not found under our most fertile farmland, it doesn't release dangerous carbon into the atmosphere and it has huge potential in growing jobs.
Solid Energy has predicted that there may be 300 jobs produced from a local lignite industry, yet there is potential for 3,000 jobs developed out of silica if we decide to smelt and process it within the Southland region. While the lignite jobs are largely lower qualified positions the silica industry would require a range of skills and qualifications and a larger proportion of the jobs will need to be higher qualified ones.
I know what choices I would be making now and it doesn't involve lignite!