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Govt takes 'slash and burn' approach to forestry

Brian Connell
National Forestry Spokesman

16 March 2003

Govt takes 'slash and burn' approach to forestry

With the strike of a pen, the Government is poised to jeopardise our multi-billion dollar forestry sector, according to National Party Forestry spokesman Brian Connell.

His comments come amid predictions that Cabinet may be about to transfer 64ha of Crown land to Ngati Awa, including part of the Kaingaroa Forest.

"Apart from the dangerous precedent in terms of future settlements, Labour is poised to give Ngati Awa a blank slate to hold the forestry industry hostage.

"Ngati Awa will control access to the private roads, giving them absolute power over companies trying to transport lumber for export or processing," says Mr Connell.

"And it looks like Ngati Awa will be able to charge what it likes for access.

"People's jobs and livelihoods are hanging on this. Last week we saw 80 forestry redundancies, which can all be blamed on external economic factors.

"Now, with the stroke of a pen, Labour is about to introduce more uncontrollable costs.

"It's already clear Ngati Awa are not acting in good faith over this matter.

"The receiver for the Central North Island Forestry Partnership (CNIFP) has been trying to sort out access issues for several months now, yet Ngati Awa have been unwilling to make any commitments," Mr Connell says.

If Cabinet approves the plan, CNIFP may take legal action to obtain a 'Declaration' as to the rights of CNIFP, the Crown and Ngati Awa. I applaud that action if this insane plan is followed.

"It's a sad day when businesses are forced to use the courts to ensure basic safeguards are in place - safeguards the Government should be implementing.

"Forestry makes up an eighth of our total exports, provides more than 25,000 jobs directly and over 100,000 jobs indirectly," Mr Connell says.

"If the Government rubber stamps this settlement, the industry's reputation with foreign investors will take another hit and it'll be even harder for our companies to compete.

"Labour's sending a strong message and a familiar one - don't bother talking to this Government unless you're Maori.

"The Government must realise its politically correct agenda may make it feel good, but there are implications in the real world too," says Mr Connell.


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