May 26, 2014

Why I chose to divest

My name is Barbara Thomas and I’m a retiree living in the rural village of Uki in the Tweed Valley in far Northern New South Wales. I have two children and four grandchildren. I recently decided to join the and Market Forces divestment campaign to take a stand against the expansion of fossil fuels which is happening all around Australia.

Many of my friends see how the major financial financing the same activities locally that are so very wrong for our community. Yet we love our local business and like to conduct our affairs that way so changing banks has been a big decision and not one which I took lightly, particularly at this stage of my life when I need access to flexible and user-friendly products.

My father was an Assistant General Manager of ANZ in the mid-1970’s so up until the switch, I’d been with ANZ all my life, 52 years spanning my entire working and retirement life. I shut down my Access and Progress Saver accounts and wrote a personal letter to the CEO to explain the reasons for my actions and advise them to lift their game and invest more in renewables.

Why divest?  I have been disillusioned with ANZ for years, but needed a worthwhile alternative, and a pressing reason, to make the change which creates some issues of convenience (the nearest branch of my current bank is an hour away) and having to bear some cost/loss of income.  But the environmental factor speaks to me loud and clear

I live an hour away from the Metgasco gas exploration site at Bentley, where the local community recently won a huge battle to stop Metgasco from drilling on their doorstep. Metgasco’s license was approved despite 76% of the community objecting to the project, so thousands of protectors gathered to peacefully prevent Metgasco from entering the site.

There have been hundreds of PELs (exploration licences) approved to drill for coal seam gas all over the Northern Rivers region of NSW – in fact over 25% of the state is covered in PELs. I have been totally opposed to fossil fuel mining, wherever it is carried out in Australia, for many years due to the effect on climate change.  The risk to groundwater I believe is huge – there are no scientific studies which prove unconventional gas mining is safe for groundwater, aquifers or indeed the Great Artesian Basin.

Added to that is the precious agricultural land that is being, or will be gobbled up, by this insidious industry.  And then there is the industrial wasteland that is created by unconventional (including coal seam) gas mining.   Open cut mining in the Hunter Valley has decimated large swathes of land there and more is planned.

For this reason, I switched from ANZ to bankmecu which, I feel, has the best stand on environmental and socially responsible banking and is a member of the Global Alliance on Banking and Values (GABV)   I am happy with them.   The switch will cost me some money and their interest rates are not as high and they have fees and charges I didn’t pay at ANZ, but it’s totally worth it for the environment.

By Barbara Thomas

Keep your eyes peeled for our report on Climate proofing your investments – to be released on Friday 30th May