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Coast Logging Advocate Under Fire From Own Members

An executive member of West Coast pro-logging group, Coast Action Network, is under fire for criticising newspaper adverts placed by his own lobby group. John Howard reports.

Tony Kokshoorn, who is also a Grey District councillor and director of the West Coast newspaper, the Greymouth Evening Star, says Coast Action Network, (CAN) had overstepped its boundaries by suggesting Coasters should not vote Labour at tomorow's general election.

"By placing the advertisements CAN had jeopardised future funding from council's" Mr Kokshoorn said

Mr Kokshoorn was criticising an advert placed in a newspaper owned by the company of which he is a director.

However, CAN's chairman, Barry Nicolle, said yesterday that it was Mr Kokshoorn who suggested that a similar advert was placed in the Hauraki Herald. The Hauraki Herald covers the Coromandel electorate.

"He suggested that we run a full-page ad in the Coromandel, is this a double standard or what?" Mr Nicolle said.

"It seems a different story down here.....is it okay up there and not okay down here, what's the difference," Mr Nicolle said.

"But anyway, in no place in those ads did we tell people not to vote for Labour," he said.

Mr Nicolle was also critical that as an executive member of CAN, Mr Kokshoorn could have involved himself in the process of approving the local advert. "The advert was approved by active executive members of the group," Mr Nicolle said.

"He (Mr Kokshoorn) will be on the totally disliked list by everyone on CAN," Mr Nicolle added.

Mr Kokshoorn said CAN had done a superb job for the region and was responsible for ensuring Labour's "West Coast package" was a far better one than initially proposed but it has to stay astride of the political fence.

Mr Kokshoorn's comments follow the recent resignation of Grey District mayor, Kevin Brown from CAN.

However, Mr Nicolle said it had not escaped the notice of CAN's member's that Mr Brown's moves and Mr Kokshoorn's comments could indicate a move by the Grey District Council aimed a gaining control of Labour's West Coast Economic Development Trust should it be elected.

Labour's plans to establish an economic development trust include transferring assets, resource levies and subsidies worth around $80 million to West Coast local body councils.

This in itself is causing stiff debate on the Coast because local councils are not seen as the appropriate bodies to have that amount of control.

Nevertheless, a Labour Party win on the West Coast now looks likely because people seem to have accepted that indigenous logging will eventually stop under either Labour or National.

Whether Damien O'Connor can retain his seat as a constituency MP is another question. He is not standing on Labour's party list. In the electorate he is up against NZ First candidate and Buller mayor, Pat O'Dea, who is a long-standing and outspoken West Coast personality.

The West Coast/Tasman electorate will be one to watch as votes are counted tomorrow night.

ends

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