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Dump dodgy rimu contracts

2 May 2000

Dump dodgy rimu contracts

The Government should not allow itself to be tied by contracts to supply West Coast rimu which were signed to pre-empt government policy say the Greens.

"Various Government MPs seem to be saying that they are legally tied by the rimu contracts," said Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"What they are forgetting is that Timberlands signed long term logging contracts just hours before Labour's policy to end the logging was announced, in an attempt to thwart the new Government.

"On Tuesday September 7 Labour finalised its policy which said that logging by Timberlands should end, but that they would honour supply contracts signed before the announcement of their policy. The policy was not announced until 9 am on the Friday, September 10.

"As we revealed before Christmas, Timberlands took that opportunity to sign four agreements to supply rimu for up to eight years. By far the biggest rimu supply deal was apparently signed on the Thursday afternoon, just hours before Labour's policy was announced.

"There are also force majeure clauses in the contracts that would allow them to be terminated without having to pay out compensation. These clauses were tested in the High Court case against the Government's decision to end the beech scheme and held up to scrutiny.

"There are no legal reasons to keep logging, and very few jobs at stake.

"It must be remembered that the bulk of the rimu to be logged this year is coming from the highly valued Orikaka forest, where there is no pretence by anyone that the logging is sustainable.

"Even the previous government brought the end of the Buller logging forward to December this year. Surely a Labour-Alliance Government can do better than that?

"In the six months to 31 March 2000 Timberlands took 15,800 cubic metres of timber from our native forests. For four of those months the Labour-Alliance Government was in charge.

"Meanwhile there are 57,178 cubic metres of timber available each year for approved sustainable harvest from private native forest. We don't need to trash publicly owned forests for furniture," she said.

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP, 04 470 6661, 025 586 068 Paul Bensemann, Press Secretary, 04 470 6679, 021 214 2665

Media Backgrounder

The Timberlands rimu contracts

1. Just days after Labour announced its plan to end all West Coast logging, Timberlands told the media that contracts had already been signed for 8 years more rimu logging: 27,000 m3 in 2000 and 10,000 m3 for the following years (ie 17.000 m3 Orikaka overcut in the first year plus 10,000 m3 sustained yield mostly from Okarito and Saltwater). The best rimu forests will suffer most.

2. Both Timberlands and Westco Lagan said the contracts had been signed the month before, ie well before the Labour policy:

* Kit Richards (Westport News, 16 September 1999) on rimu: "Kit Richards confirmed that contracts were signed last month [ie August] for rimu sawlogs and veneer for the next eight years."

* Grant Carruthers, Westco Lagan managing director (Westport News, 20 September 1999): "The tender process was conducted in July and August amongst all their customers.... That was completed in the second half of August, which was well before any policy announcement or suggestions of policy. To say we did that out of spite is total nonsense."

* Dave Hilliard (on Kim Hill, 15 October 1999) said the same thing about the beech contracts: "Well, we've been working on these contracts for a number of years and they were signed in late August as soon as the government announced that they had accepted the economics of beech.... We weren't aware of Labour's policy until it was announced around the tenth of September."

This was not the case.

3. What was the real order of events?

Tuesday 7 September 1999 Labour caucus agrees on the Indigenous Forests policy, including the words "all logging of crown owned indigenous forests will be halted as soon as supply contracts in existence at the time this policy is announced are completed." The policy is not announced immediately.

Wednesday 8 September 1999 News has spread that there was a fight over the West Coast policy in caucus and that Damion O'Connor is not happy. David Carter issues a press statement saying "Rumours are rife in Parliament that their MP, Damion O'Connor, stormed out of a Labour party caucus meeting on Tuesday after a heated debate."

Thursday 9 September 1999 The Press (among other papers) reports Carter, and O'Connor replying that "there's nothing new to be revealed in that we have been involved in some fairly intense discussions over forestry on the Coast".

On that Thursday afternoon Dave Hilliard hurriedly signed most of the eight year contracts, apparently accounting for most of the timber volume committed.

Friday 10 September Michael Cullen announces the policy at 9am, less than 24hours after most of the rimu and beech supply contracts were signed.


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