Rising Tide Newcastle
A Brief History of Rising Tide Newcastle
Rising Tide Newcastle was founded in 2004. The group's first campaign was against new coal-fired power stations in NSW, which were being proposed by the Carr Labor Government. RT joined a coalition of national and state environment groups called “No More Polluting Power”, which campaigned against the proposals. Our role in this coalition included organising, promoting, and making speeches at public rallies, and contributing to written campaign materials including flyers, media releases, and submissions.
In November 2004, the Carr Government released a discussion paper on the state's energy policy, and took public submissions on the issue until February 2005. Rising Tide wrote up a submission-writing guide, and embarked on a concerted street-stall campaign to collect hand-written letters and flood the government with submissions calling for a ban on new coal fired power stations. We collected several hundred submissions. Then we organised RTN's first ever action. It was a blockade of the ALP state headquarters in Sydney, and it succeeded in putting the new coal plants issue prominently in the mainstream media, for the first time.
The NSW Government was due to release their policy paper, including an announcement of new coal plants, in mid 2005. However, due to the strong, and unexpected campaign by ourselves and the rest of the NMPP coalition, the government never released this final paper. The proposals for coal plants in NSW went dormant for a few years.
Newcastle coal exports
When the coal-plants campaign died down, RT decided to shift its focus to the rapid expansion of the world's biggest coal port. The over-arching campaign against coal export expansion was Rising Tide's primary campaign focus from 2005 until 2008, and was an umbrella for several more targeted campaigns against specific projects. These were as follows:
Sandgate rail flyover (2005)
The government and the coal industry had identified the coal rail line as the main bottleneck in the export chain, and embarked on a program of major rail upgrades (it's still going, and will be for years). The most important, and the first one they did, was a rail flyover at Sandgate. The Sandgate rail flyover was jointly funded by both the coal industry and the Federal Government, but was to benefit nobody other the coal industry. When construction of the flyover began in December 2005, Rising Tide blockaded the construction site. Sadly, the Sandgate Flyover was built in the end.
Anvil Hill coal mine (2005 - 2007)
The Anvil Hill Alliance was formed by Greenpeace, Rising Tide, and the local group Anvil Hill Project Watch, in 2005, with the objective of building a high profile campaign against the Anvil Hill coal mine. It grew into a broad alliance of many individuals and groups, including some horse studs and vineyards. Most of the work was done by the three founding groups, however. The Anvil Hill proposal was to be the biggest coal mine in NSW at 10.5 Mtpa. The campaign objective was to force the NSW Government to knock back just one coal mine (and a very bad one), due to both the climate impacts and the direct impacts on land, water, and communities. This would not only save a special chunk of bush from being bulldozed, but would start a domino effect of coal mines rejected on the basis of their climate change impact.
The Anvil Hill campaign sadly failed to stop the mine being approved (it's now an Xstrata mine called Mangoola. Strategic name change.) In lesser ways, though, the campaign was a success. For example, it really kick-started the debate in the Hunter, and to a lesser degree NSW and Australia, on the costs of the coal mining industry and its impact on global climate change. As part of the Anvil Hill campaign, Rising Tide also won a court case 'Gray v Minister for Planning' which effectively means that governments must now take into consideration the downstream emissions of projects being assessed under part3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
NCIG coal terminal (2006 – 2008)
Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group (NCIG) was formed by 7 or 8 coal mining companies that felt they weren't getting enough access to the Port Waratah Coal Service (PWCS) terminal, so decided to build their own. NCIG is headed by BHP Billiton (PWCS on the other hand is controlled by Xstrata and Rio Tinto). The 66 Mtpa NCIG coal terminal was to dramatically increase the approved capacity of Newcastle coal exports (in 2006 Newcastle was shipping 80 Mtpa coal). In early 2006 Rising Tide blockaded the Planning Department in Sydney, for failing to include the impacts of climate change in requirements for the Environmental Assessment of the terminal. The EA was put on public exhibition in early 2006, and Rising Tide again hit the streets to collect hand-written public submissions against the terminal. The terminal was approved in April 2007, just after the NSW election, and substantially later than they originally planned. Rising Tide also instigated and played a major organising role in 'Climate Camp 2008' – the first camp for climate action to be held in Australia. Climate Camp was held in Newcastle, and coal exports were its major focus. The camp climaxed in a 1000 strong direct action that shut down the coal train line for a day. It was the largest climate change action seen in Australia to date.
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (2008 - 2009)
After winning the November 2007 Federal Election, Kevin Rudd instigated a process, including the Garnaut Review, that lead to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill. There were major problems with the CPRS, principally its extremely weak pollution target (5% by 2020), the handouts to big polluters (like the aluminium and coal industries), and the reliance on dodgy offsets. Both green groups and industry groups campaigned against the Bill. It was defeated in the Senate in December 2009, and Rudd abandoned it a few months later.
Copenhagen climate talks (2009)
The UNFCCC talks in Copenhagen were billed as the world's last chance to get a decent climate change treaty (umm....here's hoping that wasn't the case). Environment groups and many other organisations around the world were making a lot of noise about it all year, and expectations were high. It could be argued that Rising Tide didn't really campaign on the issue, but just organised a couple of actions. They were strategic actions though, and the best way we could slot in to the international campaign and make a difference. The talks began and ended in December 2009.