Home' Greymouth Star : April 23rd 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
8 - Thursday, April 23, 2015
Conser vationists say they are not
afraid to take on Gina Rinehart in
their Supreme Court challenge to the
Alpha Coal project.
Ms Rinehart’s Hancock Coal hopes
to build a 30 million tonne per annum
opencast coal mine in Q ueensland’s
Galilee Basin as a joint venture with
Indian company GVK.
It would be among Australia’s
largest mines, with a lease area of
But in 2014, the Q ueensland Land
Court accepted the lobby group’s
evidence that the project would
have severe impacts on the State’s
At the same time, it recommended
approval with stricter conditions.
A two-day Supreme Court judicial
review application began yesterday in
Environmental Defenders Office
chief executive Jo-Anne Bragg said
the decision was flawed.
“ It was very clear from the Land
Court’s decision that the severe
groundwater impacts warranted
refusal but they didn’t get that quite
clear enough in their decision,” she
said outside court.
“The former environment minister
rushed ahead and approved the
project even though there was this
Supreme Court legal action under
Coast and Country will argue the
environmental approval was based on
a flawed Land Court decision.
“ We’re not afraid to take on Gina
Rinehart on behalf of our clients
when there are major issues like
climate change and groundwater,
which is the lifeblood for graziers,”
The conser vationists also say the
court should have taken into account
greenhouse gases produced from
burning the coal overseas.
Grazier Bruce Currie said the mine
would destroy livelihoods.
“ We have to protect
groundwater because without it, we
lose our business, our homes and our
future on the land,” he said.
Bragg said a decision was not
expected for weeks or months but
denied the case was merely an
attempt to delay the project. — AAP
Conservationists ‘not afraid of Gina’
Boat tragedy skipper ‘drinking wine, smoking hashish’
Military action mulled over migrants
Two teenage sur vivors of the
Mediterranean’s worst disaster since
World War Two have described the
terror of being thrown into the sea
in pitch darkness, after the boat they
were travelling on smashed into a
merchant vessel that had been sent to
Nasir and Riajul, both 17, from
Bangladesh, provided key evidence
of how migrants on the deck of the
boat that left Libya bound for the
Italian island of Lampedusa rushed
to one side because they feared
being crushed against the hull of the
Portuguese merchant ship.
The description of their ordeal
came as Italian prosecutors named
the alleged captain of the converted
fishing boat and a crew member,
who were among the 28 sur vivors of
Monday ’s disaster, which is thought
to have claimed the lives of at least
The sur vivors were led ashore at
the port of Catania in eastern Sicily
Mohammed Ali Malek, a Tunisian,
27, the alleged captain, will be
charged with causing a shipwreck,
multiple manslaughter and aiding and
abetting people trafficking. Mahmud
Bikhit, a Syrian, 25, the alleged crew
member, will be charged with aiding
and abetting trafficking.
They will appear before a judge in
Reports emerged that Malek was
drunk and smoking hashish. Several
Italian news websites claimed his
condition contributed to the tragedy.
“ He was drinking wine, he was
drunk, and he was smoking hashish at
the helm just before the boat bashed
into the Portuguese ship,” sur vivors
were quoted as saying. “ In five
minutes, the boat went down.”
The King Jacob had been sent to
help the 20m migrant boat after it put
out a distress signal.
But buffeted by waves and with
hundreds of people, including women
and children, crammed into the hold
and middle deck, the smugglers’
boat could not manoeuvre easily and
started slamming into the merchant
“O ur boat smashed into the big
ship at least three times and people
panicked — they all ran to the other
side of the deck. That ’s what tipped us
over. It was the fault of the captain of
the smugglers, there is no doubt about
it,” Riajul said.
“ We all fell into the water. People
were shouting, ‘Help us, help us, hey,
help us.’ Most of the other migrants
were African and they didn’t know
how to swim. I did and that’s why I
“I left Bangladesh because I needed
Just 28 people sur vived the disaster,
while 24 bodies were recovered after
an exhaustive search.
The hundreds below deck had been
locked in by the smugglers and had no
chance of escape, Italian investigators
said. — PA
Nigerian forces backed by warplanes
invaded Islamist group Boko Haram’s
last known stronghold, the Sambisa
forest, overnight, in an effort to finally
defeat their six-year-old insurgency, two
military sources said.
Armies from Nigeria and neighbours
Chad, Niger and Cameroon have in the
past two months launched a concerted
push to try to crush the insurgents, who
have killed thousands and kidnapped
hundreds in their battle to establish an
The Sambisa forest in north-east
Nigeria, a vast former colonial game
reser ve, is about 100km from the village
of Chibok from where Boko Haram
abducted more than 200 secondary
school girls a year ago. Intelligence
officials had believed that this was where
they were being held, although United
States reconnaissance drones have failed
to find them.
United Nations Special Representative
for West Africa Mohamed Ibn Chambas
said this month that Boko Haram
militants seeking shelter in the Sambisa
forest may be using some of the captured
girls as human shields.
A spokesman for the military was not
immediately available for comment.
An official in the Chadian army said
Chadian and Cameroonian troops were
ready to attack Sambisa, which lies near
the Cameroon border, from the other
side and would move in soon.
Chadian troops were assembling in
Mora, northern Cameroon, ahead of the
joint operation, a Cameroonian army
The militants controlled an area the
size of Belgium at the start of the year,
but have since lost much of that ground.
Yet they remain a deadly threat to
civilians, as illustrated on Friday when
they slit the throats of 12 people in
north-east Nigeria as the army was
trying to evacuate the area around the
former Boko Haram headquarters of
Failure to crush Boko Haram or protect
civilians was one reason President
Goodluck Jonathan lost an election on
March 28 to Muhammadu Buhari, who
has pledged to spare no effort in battling
the militants after he is sworn in on May
Buhari also said he would do everything
possible to rescue the Chibok girls, but
could not promise to find them.
Migrants trying to reach Greece are seen aboard a sinking boat, as others are in the water tr ying to reach the coast of the south-eastern island of
Rhodes this week. The wooden boat carr ying dozens of immigrants ran aground and at least three people drowned, the Greek coastguard said.
A combination photo shows Mahmud Bikhit, left, and Mohammed Ali
Malek, two sur vivors of the weekend migrant boat disaster, arrested on
suspicion of people trafficking,
European Union leaders gathering
in Brussels are to consider launching
a military operation against human
traffickers in Libya in the biggest effort
yet to halt the deadly flow of refugees
trying to reach Europe by sea.
As sur vivors lay bare the full horror of
last weekend’s catastrophic shipwreck
near Libya, EU officials are paving the
way for the approval of unprecedented
action to ease their plight.
In the draft statement for tonight’s
summit, leaders will commit to
“ undertake systematic efforts to identify,
capture and destroy vessels before they
are used by traffickers”.
The EU’s top diplomat Federica
Mogherini “is invited to immediately
begin preparations for a possible security
and defence policy operation to this
effect, in accordance with international
law,” the draft added.
A diplomatic source said EU members
were preparing to approve the statement,
reflecting the union’s readiness to take
bolder action against people smugglers,
who pack rickety boats to overflowing
with people fleeing conflict and hardship
in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi
this week evoked the possibility of
“targeted inter ventions” against the
Libyan-based smugglers that would fall
short of a full military inter vention.
If approved, the operation would be the
first time EU governments used military
force to fight illegal migration.
“ It ’s implementation would take time.
It ’s complicated,” a diplomatic source
EU leaders go into the summit under
huge pressure to both check the tide of
migrants landing on European shores
and provide greater succour to those
whose boats run into trouble at sea.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan yesterday contrasted his
country’s hosting of two million refugees
from Syria with the EU’s approach of
“ letting the boats sink and leaving them
to their deaths”.
Erdogan’s remarks came days after an
estimated 900 migrants bound for Italy
drowned when their boat capsized after
setting sail from Libya.
That has raised the death toll to around
1800 so far this year, compared to fewer
than 100 who died before the end of
April last year, when a similar number
attempted the journey.
Italy shut down the mission that saved
the lives of more than 100,000 migrants
last year because other EU countries
refused to pay for it. It was replaced
with a smaller EU scheme whose main
focus is to patrol the bloc’s borders, after
countries argued that saving migrants
encouraged more to come.
The peak migration season of late
spring and summer has barely begun,
estimating tens of thousands of African
and Asian migrants likely to attempt
the journey per month, mostly from
Libya. Last year the death toll eventually
The leaders are likely to agree in
Brussels to double the cash and
equipment available to two EU border
patrol missions in the Mediterranean, a
senior EU diplomat said.
Their area of operations, while at
the discretion of commanders on the
ground, would also probably be extended
closer to the north African coast, not just
waters near EU shores. Once patrolling
in the area, maritime law obliges vessels
to rescue people in trouble.
In Valetta, capital of Malta, a memorial
ser vice was held for the 24 bodies
recovered from Sunday ’s disaster, when
a triple-deck fishing boat capsized and
sank near Libya with hundreds of people
trapped in its hold.
Only 28 people were rescued. The vast
majority were locked below decks, their
bodies never found.
A room in Valetta’s Mater Dei Hospital
morgue was blanketed with flowers
sent mostly by local residents. A note
attached to one bouquet read: “R .I.P.
brothers and sisters, you matter”.
“ We proceeded out at sea with the
hope of course to save as many people
as we could but unfortunately we didn’t
arrive quite in time to save the migrants,”
visibly moved Maltese Navy lieutenant
Mark Merceica, who attended the
“ We were really disappointed and you
could feel this through the entire crew,
we were really hoping to arrive in time.”
The EU has struggled for years to forge
an effective joint strategy to handle
migrants fleeing war and turmoil in
Africa and the Middle East.
Many European politicians have
acknowledged this week that last year’s
decision not to replace the Italian search
and rescue operation was a mistake.
“There was a view that the presence
of rescue ships encouraged people
to risk the crossing,” British Deputy
Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote in
the Guardian newspaper overnight.
“That judgment now looks to have been
wrong.” — AFP-Reuters
For centuries, France has named its
ambassador to the Holy See under a
process that is as smooth, c lassy and
predictable as the ticking of an antique
Tradition dictates that the appointee
is a conser vative, senior diplomat — a
decent chap who is on his last posting
before retirement and deser ves a job
with perks, flunkies and not too much
The appointment is approved by the
French President, then the bureaucratic
machinery whirrs silently into gear.
The papal envoy in Paris, the Apostolic
Nuncio, is informed. He tells the church
hierarchy in Rome, which rubber-
stamps the president ’s choice.
Staff at the French embassy to the
Holy See then put a final polish to the
Villa Bonaparte, an 18th century edifice
decorated in fine empire style, to prepare
for His Excellency and his spouse.
The protocols of these changeovers
are almost set in stone. After all, France
has had diplomatic relations with the
Holy See since the fifth century with
only a few breaks, and enjoys status in
the Vatican as “the eldest daughter of
the Church”, a reflection of the historic
loyalty of French Catholics.
But this year has brought a traumatic
and very public bust-up.
The Vatican is refusing to accept
ambassadorial choice, who is gay.
The man at the centre of the storm is
Laurent Stefanini, 54, a veteran diplomat
whose previous postings include spells at
the United Nations and the Holy See,
and envoy during France’s past turns at
the helm of the G20 and G8.
Colleagues at the Foreign Ministry
said Stefanini has a strong reputation
for dealing with sensitive portfolios,
including religion and the environment,
and is well regarded for being able to
tease out common ground when national
Since 2010, Stefanini has been head of
protocol at the Elysee, ser ving Hollande
and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.
He is also a practising Catholic and was
confirmed in the religion by the current
Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre
With this useful background and
Hollande in November 2014 during a
brief visit to France by Pope Francis.
Everything, therefore, seemed fine
until, on January 5, Hollande approved
Stefanini as the next ambassador.
Exactly a month later, according to
reports, Stefanini was called to an
informal meeting at the Apostolic
Nuncio in Paris where he was asked to
withdraw his candidature because of his
The president ’s office is standing
firm. It said Stefanini’s nomination
came from “a wish by the president
and a cabinet decision”, and that the
president regarded him as “one of our
“ France has chosen its ambassador to
the Vatican. This choice was (Laurent)
Stefanini and that remains the French
Stephane Le Foll said.
Neither the Curia nor the Pope have
spoken publicly about the case.
“ When an ambassador is appointed,
the name is published in the official
bulletin of the Holy See. Until that time,
there is nothing to be said,” a statement
from Vatican spokesman Federico
Lombardi’s office said.
The first consequence of the quarrel has
been to ignite a debate about where the
church stands today on homosexuality.
The Catholic Church opposes social
acceptance of homosexuality and gay
marriage, c laiming it goes against the
dogma of marriage as a union “between
one man and one woman, joined
as husband and wife in an intimate
But it has begun calling for a more
respectful and just pastoral care towards
In a dramatic flourish in 2013, the
Pope seemed to open the door to
change. Speaking to journalists on his
return flight from a trip to Brazil, he
said “Who am I to judge?” in the case of
a homosexual who “ is seeking the Lord
and has good will”.
The president of Italy’s Gaynet
movement, Franco Grillini, said that
by rejecting Stefanini, the Vatican had
taken back this olive branch and snapped
it in two.
“ Evidently, the ‘who am I to judge if
a homosexual Catholic is seeking the
Lord’ does not apply to a diplomat,”
Grillini said. — NZ H
Vatican ‘no’ to
French gay choice
NSW mopping up
after deadly storm
About 200,000 New South Wales
homes remain without power
as emergency ser vices start the
massive mopping-up from the wild
weather that has lashed the State
While conditions were easing
early today, an evacuation order
remained in place for parts of
Milperra in Sydney, while about
2000 people remain isolated in the
Hunter region due to flooding.
The State Emergency Ser vice says
it has completed about 50% of the
12,420 requests for assistance it has
received since Monday morning.
NSW SES deputy commissioner
Steven Pearce says electricity crews
are working as quickly as possible
to get power back on for people
affected by the storms.
“ We are just chasing the full
statistics there but it ’s still around
200,000 homes without power,” he
told ABC television this morning.
“Although the energy providers
have been working relentlessly,
their workers have been doing a
fantastic job. There’s been thousand
of wires brought down and power
The SES said the slow-moving
low pressure system off the Hunter
coast would weaken and “lead to
improved weather conditions over
eastern New South Wales”.
It said flooding on the Colo River
meant Macdonald Valley, Webbs
Creek Valley and Colo Valley were
A total of 132 flood rescues had
been made since the wild weather
began, including early today when
a teenager was washed off his bike
in western Sydney.
Most calls to the SES have been
about fallen trees and roof damage
caused by wind and heavy rainfall.
The Transport Management
Centre says the bad weather is
continuing to affect roads and
No Sydney rail lines are currently
affected, but the Hunter line is
c losed between Hamilton and
Dungog/Scone, with a limited bus
ser vice in place, and the south coast
line is closed between Kiama and
About 80 sets of traffic lights were
out across Sydney, and a number
of main roads are closed due to
Most ferries are running to
schedule, but buses are replacing
ser vices between
and Kissing Point Wharf on the
The TMC says commuters should
expect delays on buses throughout
Sydney, the Central Coast and
Newcastle due to local road
The Bureau of Meteorology has
flood warnings in place for the
Hunter River, Hawkesbury and
Nepean Rivers, Georges River,
South Coast, Wyong River and
Tuggerah Lake, Lake Macquarie
and Paterson and Williams Rivers.
The bureau says the worst of wild
weather is over, but has warned that
flood peaks will still comedespite
less rainfall across the State’s east
Twelve local government areas
have been declared natural disaster
zones, spreading from Sydney’s
northern beaches to the Hunter
At least four people have died so
far during the wild weather.— AAP
A coyote spotted overnight in an
exclusive Manhattan neighbourhood
touched off a massive police hunt that
shut down Riverside Park, then led to
Columbia University and Grants Tomb.
Before moving on up to the most
expensive of New York City’s five
boroughs, coyotes have shown up in
recent weeks in the Bronx and Queens
as well as suburban New Jersey, and
wildlife experts says the predators are
becoming increasingly comfortable in
cities, which offer more opportunities
After the pre-dawn sighting of a
coyote on Manhattan’s West Side, the
New York City Police Department
scoured Riverside Park with helicopters
and ground units for several hours.
By mid-afternoon, the search had been
called off and the wily beast remained at
“He’s in the wind,” detective Martin
This month alone, another coyote
was captured in Manhattan’s Chelsea
neighborhood and there were two coyote
attacks reported in suburban Bergen
County, New Jersey, including on a man
walking his dog.
The influx of coyotes into urban areas
such as New York, Chicago and Los
Angeles is a sign of their ability to adapt
to environments where they are drawn
to abundance of food including mice,
squirrels, rabbits and, sometimes, pet
cats, Roland Kays, a zoologist at North
Carolina State University who studies
wildlife in urban areas, said. — Reuters
Coyote in posh New York suburb
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