Uni staff de­mand fos­sil fuel sale

Central Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JAMES PASLEY

Auck­land Univer­sity is be­ing called on by its own staff to sell its fos­sil fuel in­vest­ments.

An open let­ter signed by 240 staff from eight fac­ul­ties re­leased pub­licly on Wed­nes­day urged the Univer­sity of Auck­land (UoA) to sell its coal, oil and gas in­vest­ments.

The let­ter comes af­ter two years of cam­paign­ing against the univer­sity’s fos­sil fuel in­vest­ments by univer­sity group Fos­sil Free UoA. The cam­paign has in­cluded marches, pe­ti­tions and a 12 hour oc­cu­pa­tion of Vice Chan­cel­lor Stu­art McCutcheon’s wing in May.

The univer­sity em­ploys about 5000 staff.

Prom­i­nent sig­na­to­ries of the let­ter in­cluded his­to­rian Dame Anne Sal­mond, as­so­ciate dean Dr Niki Harre, pop­u­la­tion health pro­fes­sor Peter Adams, and law pro­fes­sor Jane Kelsey.

In April, Fos­sil Free UoA es­ti­mated $1 mil­lion of the $108m in the Univer­sity of Auck­land Foun­da­tion was in­vested in the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try.

Univer­sity of Otago and Vic­to­ria Univer­sity of Welling­ton have al­ready di­vested in fos­sil fuels and Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury has par­tially di­vested.

Se­nior lec­turer Rhys Jones said uni­ver­si­ties played a crit­i­cal role in shap­ing public opin­ion on ur­gent is­sues like cli­mate change.

He said di­vest­ing would be an ef­fec­tive step to show the univer­sity didn’t con­done ex­tract­ing fos­sil fuels.

A spokesper­son for the univer­sity said McCutcheon was aware of the let­ter and un­der­stood it would be con­sid­ered by the foun­da­tion on Fri­day.

The spokesper­son didn’t say whether the univer­sity changed its po­si­tion.

Fos­sil Free UoA spokesper­son Alex John­ston said this was a sig­nif­i­cant ges­ture.

‘‘This let­ter is a new sig­nal that a very sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of staff are com­ing out pub­licly and putting it to the foun­da­tion,’’ John­ston said.

John­ston said the foun­da­tion’s tabling of the let­ter was progress. had

‘‘This is the first time the foun­da­tion has shown any real en­gage­ment af­ter over two years cam­paign­ing.’’

‘‘We’re hop­ing the foun­da­tion will dis­cuss the let­ter and we will be al­lowed to speak at the next meet­ing in Septem­ber.’’

John­ston said Vice Chan­cel­lor Stu­art McCutcheon should back his staff and call for di­vest­ment in non re­new­able re­sources.

JAMES PASLEY/FAIR­FAX NZ

Fos­sil Free UoA spokesper­son Alex John­ston says a num­ber of staff are against the in­vest­ment.

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