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Letter To Clark On West Coast Forests

5 September 1999

Open letter to Helen Clark on West Coast forest destruction

The Green Party has sent an open letter to Opposition leader Helen Clark urging the Labour party to make up its mind over whether it opposes the Timberlands beech scheme on the West Coast.

Last week, Labour MP Damien O'Connor was reported saying he hoped good contracts would be put in place for West Coast sawmillers and processors on the beech scheme.

Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said the comments were disturbing as they represented an unequivocal commitment from a Labour MP to the logging of some of the last remaining pristine low-land beech forest in New Zealand. The forest is home to a number of threatened species.

Ms Fitzsimons said sustainable employment growth on the West Coast depended on a forward-looking regional development strategy based on conserving the environment not destroying it.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: 025 568 068

(Open letter is on the following page)

5 September 1999

Rt Hon Helen Clark Leader of the Labour Party Parliament Buildings WELLINGTON

Dear Helen,

We read with concern the attached articles in the Greymouth Evening Star and Christchurch Press which quote the Labour MP for the West Coast, Damien O'Connor, stating that "he hoped some good long-term contracts with West Coast sawmillers and processors were put in place as soon as possible" for the Timberlands beech scheme.

This statement represents an unequivocal commitment from one of your MPs to the logging of some of the last remaining pristine low-land beech forest in New Zealand, forest which is home to a number of threatened species. The Department of Conservation has already advised that 80% of this beech forest has high conservation values.

We are seeking a firm assurance from you that the Labour Party has not committed itself to the beech scheme, despite Damien O'Connor's statements. We also ask that you urgently declare your position on whether or not, as part of the new government, you would support the cancellation of the beech scheme.

We are concerned that if Labour waits any longer before sending a clear message on this issue it will cost the New Zealand taxpayer millions of dollars to buy out contracts which are clearly in the process of being signed right now.

We urge you to advise Timberlands that it would be imprudent to enter into any binding contracts before the election. As a state owned enterprise it would be inappropriate of Timberlands to tie the hands of their future shareholders in this way.

While we appreciate your criticism of National for giving the beech scheme the go-ahead we believe it is also vital that you commit to overturning it. For our part, the Green Party is determined to use its influence in the next parliament to stop the logging as soon as is practically possible.

Yours sincerely,

Jeanette Fitzsimons MP Rod Donald MP Green Party Co-Leader Green Party Co-Leader


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