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Government Neglect Killing West Coast - New Group

Another rural lobby group has been formed on the West Coast to fight the government's policy to stop beech tree logging. John Howard reports.

Coast Action Network (CAN) chairman, Barry Nicolle, said his group would be supporting the new 20-strong Westport-based group in its fight for rural justice.

The new group recently gave a letter to local MP, Damien O'Connor, saying government neglect was killing the West Coast and that they wanted a tough stance from him, pledging to support him with direct action if necessary.

Mr Nicolle said, "New Zealanders would be horrified when they learned the Government is acting directly opposite to its written pre-election promises, it had failed to consult on its beech proposals and was now denying the people of the West Coast natural justice, procedural fairness and good faith negotiation."

"Put simply, the West Coast has a right to be consulted under the law through the observance of the principles of natural justice. Government also has a duty to act in good faith and with an open mind but it has not done so," he said

This is a typical David and Goliath situation and no New Zealander, knowing the facts, should have to tolerate it, particularly when Labour in Opposition promised transparency, accountability and openness." Mr Nicolle said.

"At this point it is not about the future of the trees it is about upholding the rule of law through proper and legitimate processes of New Zealand and international law," he added.

The Government stopped a resource consent application by SOE Timberlands in December before evidence could be heard.

In recent days there have also been calls from the scientific community, including one scientist from the Royal Society, for a full public inquiry through the office of the Commissioner for the Environment.

The scientists say they want the opportunity to present their research results which challenges the Government's views of forest sustainability.

Timber millers and West Coast mayors are also meeting and are understood to be in discussions with lawyers.

Meanwhile, at the time of writing unconfirmed reports are circulating that the Maori tribe, Ngai Tahu, have now claimed Crown land under the Treaty of Waitangi which has Timberlands exotic pine forests on it. If the reports are confirmed it will throw the Government's plans for a return of perpetual cutting rights of those forests to a West Coast Economic Trust into disarray.

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