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State-owned coal mining company Solid Energy's continued use of spies is a symptom of the lack of public scrutiny and accountability in security industries, says Save Happy Valley Coalition spokesperson Alan Liefting.
An article in this week's Sunday Star Times states that private investigator firm Thompson and Clark recently offered a man $500 a week plus expenses to spy on the Save Happy Valley Coalition.
"Over the past couple of years we've found men lurking in bushes near our camp, pretending to be on an army exercise; we've uncovered a hidden camera pointing at our track; and discovered that a member of our group was in fact a spy employed by Thompson and Clark," says Liefting.
"Helen Clark and Trevor Mallard both said at the time that spying was not an acceptable tactic, but it appears Solid Energy and Thompson and Clark didn't listen. Solid Energy must end their contract with Thompson and Clark, and Don Elder should resign immediately."
"But this latest discovery is the thin end of the wedge; private investigator and security companies appear to increasingly be operating with no accountability and no public scrutiny. Our recent complaint to the Registrar of Private Investigators and Security was a farce. And recently we've discovered that a security firm associated with Thompson and Clark have applied to operate on Department of Conservation land on the Stockton plateau, which would give them the power to 'patrol' conservation estate in groups of eight."
"With the mining of Happy Valley due to start this year Solid Energy are probably more interested than ever in our campaign to protect the area."
The Save Happy Valley Coalition is a collection of groups and individuals from around Aotearoa committed to stopping Solid Energy's proposed open cast coal mine in Happy Valley (Upper Waimangaroa Valley ) on the West Coast. They work to raise awareness on climate change in New Zealand. They are also deeply concerned about the fate of all endangered species under threat from Solid Energy, including Powelliphanta "Augustus" at the nearby Stockton mine. The Coalition is made up of West Coast locals, students, workers, activists and members of the general public from around Aotearoa. The group has a track record of creative protests and lock-ons as well as producing a variety of informative media. They have been occupying Happy Valley since 28th January 2006. More information about the coalition and its history can be found at www.savehappyvalley.org.nz/aboutus.htm