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Labour And The West Coast - A Coast Perspective

"You're on my turf now," Labour Deputy Leader Michael Cullen is alleged to have said to West Coasters during an angry meeting in Parliament yesterday over Labour's plans to end sustainable logging. Scoop’s West Coast correspondent John Howard reports.

During a visit to the West Coast last month Michael Cullen was shouted down and had eggs thrown at him when his party told West Coaster's it would stop logging.

Yesterday, a measure of revenge seems to have been taken when the pro-logging group, Coast Action Network, went to Parliament for an arranged meeting with Labour leader Helen Clark, but saw Michael Cullen instead.

During what has been described as a stormy meeting Michael Cullen is alleged to have displayed shocking behaviour, used foul language at the group causing a female Coast Action Network representative to burst into tears.

Helen Clark, who was not at the meeting, disputes events and says the meeting ranged from quiet discussion to animated debate.

National's Associate Forestry Minister David Carter said, "Only a month ago Michael Cullen was expelled from Parliament for losing his temper." This is a man urgently in need of a course in anger management, he said.

On television last night Labour's Forestry spokesman, Pete Hodgson said, Labour's decision was carefully thought through over a long period and the decision would not be revoked. However, Coaster's argue they were never consulted, nor had Labour leaders visited the Coast to see sustainable logging operations for themselves despite numerous invitations.

West Coaster's were incensed recently when Helen Clark told a Greypower meeting in Nelson that she was "willing to engage in discussions with West Coast people when they were."

With what is now seen as Labour's closed mind any hopes of a rationale debate over Labour's logging plans, if it becomes elected, now seem dashed.

This morning Coaster's are asking if this is the way Labour treats people before the election then how will they be treated afterwards?

Head of Coast Action Network, Barry Nicolle recently said, "For months West Coast people had been trying to get both Alliance and Labour MP's down to see West Coast forestry operations with their own eyes, but to no avail. Next thing we knew, Labour was announcing its intent to kill the opportunity for over 200 jobs and $300 million in a high value niche industry in the regional economy."

The only way forward now seems to be for the appointment of an independent mediator for good faith formal mediation. The alternative would be for an application to be made in the High Court for an injunction stopping Labour's plans until it conducts proper consultation and with an open mind. Of course, Labour has got to be elected first.


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