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Coasters Looking At Legal Action


After failing to convince Government that it should consult with the West
Coast about its indigenous timber policies, council's have received a legal
opinion which confirms that a joint court action is justified. John Howard
reports.

The Grey District Council yesterday anounced it would make an $11,000
contribution towards a joint legal action while still remaining hopeful that
Government would reconsider its actions.

The announcement follows weeks of consultation between West Coast leaders
including consideration of legal opinions from three different law firms.

The Westland District Council is expected to discuss and approve similar
action at its meeting today, while Buller District Council is not due to
meet until next week. Although seven of the twelve Buller councillors have
already said publicly they were in favour of running with the legal action.

Chairman of the West Coast Regional Council, John Clayton, said his council
is moving in accordance with the other council's though he declined to
reveal details of an in-committee discussion held last Tuesday.

The central issues involve the right of council's representing their
communities to be consulted under the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990, and a
breach of the West Coast Accord which both the High Court and Court of
Appeal have held is a legally binding contract.

Westland Mayor, John Drylie said, "The government doesn't seem to understand
the important difference between stopping the indigenous beech scheme and
the huge losses from that, and the one-off regional economic development
packages offered to all regions."

"It's like saying to Northland, for example, you can have an economic
development package but you must close the Port of Whangarei as well," he
said.

West Coast/Tasman MP, Damien O'Connor, said on Monday that the economic
development package was not compensation and did not stop the West Coast
challenging the government over the stopped beech scheme.

According to Mr O'Connor Government officials are expected to put the
economic proposals to their ministers this week.

Mr Drylie said, "A letter to the Prime Minister dated 15 February seeking
consultation and clarification about the issues has received no reply expect
an acknowledgement from office staff."

Meanwhile, the West Coast lobby-group Coast Action Network has pledged to
conduct a nationwide fundraising campaign.

CAN Chairman, Barry Nicolle said, "All of these potential ratepayer and
taxpayer costs could have been avoided if the Government had only followed
the law and consulted with the West Coast as it was legally obliged to do.
The Government is not above the law."

The SOE Timberlands and the Government are already involved in another High
Court action with milling companies which is due to be heard later this
month.


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