27, May, 2007

Spying and Infiltration: Changes Called for at Solid Energy

Category: ECO Inc

The revelation that agents of Solid Energy, the coal mining State Owned Enterprise, employed people to infiltrate and to spy on an environmental organization is alarming, says ECO co-chair Cath Wallace.

The story in today’s Sunday Star-Times suggests a new low in the actions of Solid Energy in their conflict with the Save Happy Valley Coalition. “This behaviour by Solid Energy and their attempts to silence opponents of coal mining, species endangerment and climate changing emissions is deplorable. That it is a state owned company is all the worse,” says Cath Wallace.

“Freedom of speech and of protest must be closely guarded. Responsible Ministers must make change at Solid Energy and send a clear message that infiltration and spying belongs to the Stasi of Eastern Germany in the 20th century, not in New Zealand in 2007.

“Sold Energy CEO Don Elder seems to have decided that his mission to know what critics are up to trumps any kind of decency, open society, or freedom of dissent.”

“Solid Energy is bringing New Zealand into international disrepute and is surely damaging social cohesion and our open society. This damage is on top of the damage to the Powelliphanta carnivorous snail, to the unique Mt Augustus flora and to the climate.

“Such spying is disgraceful. It corrodes trust within society. It may be Solid Energy’s intent to sow distrust in environmental movement, but the actions of Solid Energy’s agents must surely conflict with the Ministry of Social Development’s aims for social cohesion.”

“Mr Elder’s apparent satisfaction with the infiltration and spying, and his public support for the company Thompson and Clark that did this, makes his position untenable, since it brings Solid Energy, the government and New Zealand into disrepute.”

“It is entirely reasonable that people want to protest at Solid Energy driving a critically endangered endemic snail to extinction, at its destruction of irreplaceable habitat, and its contribution to greenhouse gases.”

Previously Happy Valley members found men in camouflage clothing and later a hidden video camera spying on its protest camp. Now it appears private investigators have been paying to have an individual write regular reports on the groups' meetings and plans and set up systems to automatically redirect all the groups' internal emails to the private investigator's Thompson and Clark Investigations Ltd’s, Auckland offices.

“ECO is outraged that correspondence between ECO, and Save Happy Valley has presumably been intercepted. Such state-funded spying activities are repellent and a monstrous abuse of civil liberties,” says Cath Wallace. “At least they know how genuine and widespread is the dismay at Solid Energy’s actions”.

ECO is writing to the Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Trevor Mallard to express our grave concerns about this abuse of taxpayer funds and deplorable corporate behavior. “We will call for changes at Solid Energy to ensure that this type action is not repeated by a State Owned Company.”

Cath Wallace paid tribute to the investigative journalist, Nicky Hager for his exposé of Solid Energy and Thompson and Clark’s activities.

For further information, contact Cath Wallace, 021-891-994.