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Sneaky select committee deal on West Coast Accord

Nick Smith
National's Shadow MP for West Coast Tasman

17 May 2000

Sneaky select committee deal on West Coast Accord Bill

Nelson MP and former Conservation Minister Nick Smith today accused the Government of sneaky tricks on the West Coast Accord Bill by deliberately trying to avoid sending the Bill to the Select Committee chaired by West Coast MP Damien O'Connor.

"The Primary Product Select Committee is clearly the right committee to consider this Bill. The committee has overseen the affairs of Timberlands West Coast for the last decade and has responsibility for indigenous forestry.

"It is rumoured that the Government is going to deliberately avoid the Primary Production Select Committee because it is chaired by West Coast MP Damien O'Connor who has described the Government's indigenous forest policy as 'ignorant and arrogant'.

"This Bill will have a dramatic impact on the West Coast and it is entirely appropriate that the local MP participates in the select committee process. It will add insult to injury to Mr O'Connor if the Government now manipulates the Bill away from his committee," Mr Smith said.

The Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill has been introduced to Parliament and is scheduled to have its first reading in the House tomorrow before being referred to a Select Committee. The National Opposition will be arguing that the Bill should go to the appropriate committee based on the Bill's content, not on the basis of the personality on a particular committee.

"It seems the Government wants to send the Bill to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, chaired by Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, where they expect to get a more friendly hearing.

"The West Coast issue has just been one political botch-up after another. They've broken the West Coast Accord, signed by now Justice Minister Phil Goff, they've broken their 1999 election promise to honour the rimu contracts, they've drawn Mugabe-like similarities over contract breaches and they've made ill-timed announcements about mining.

"The Government should stop trying to manipulate the process, play by the rules and allow the proper Select Committee to consider the Bill", Mr Smith said.

Ends

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