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Groups Call For Timberlands Investigation

Conservationists have called on the Government to investigate the conduct of a senior Timberlands employee and a senior MAF employee for their participation in a forestry email group dedicated to overturning the Government's decisions on West Coast forests.

The Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society today released a copy of an email from Timberlands West Coast's General Manager Planning, Kit Richards, to the pro-logging email group. The email group has been highly active since the Coalition Government's decision to end the beech logging.

Forest and Bird's President, Keith Chapple, said not all members of the group support the logging as he has received copies of the emails from several people whose names had been added by others.

"However, it does include a lengthy line-up of forestry industry professionals, forestry academics and former Forest Service employees who back Timberlands' logging of native forests."

Mr Chapple said the email from Kit Richards was extraordinary. "Mr Richards is an employee of a Government-owned business but he has been advising an external pro-logging network how to overturn the Government's election policy commitment to end Timberlands' native logging."

In his email Mr Richards tells the group: "The only chance is to put real heat on (Helen) Clark and (Pete) Hodgson personally. That may not alter anything over here but unless their fingers are burnt they are not going to change. Marian Hobbs has to be another target and fast. She may not be as dyed-in-the-wool Forest and Bird as Clark ...... She need to be pressured to visit (sic) and hammered over the appalling example set by her government..."

Mr Chapple said Kit Richards also advised the group to pressure the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to get involved.

"Soon after the Parliamentary Commissioner was added to the email list and this week it has been announced he will be holding an inquiry into indigenous forestry."

Mr Chapple said Kit Richards also advised the group that Court action against the Government decision might have a "positive" outcome based on his legal advice and personal knowledge of the West Coast Accord. "Clark and Hodgson" he told the group "may be in for a shock".

Forest and Bird said it was outrageous that a senior Timberlands employee should conduct himself in this way.

"Mr Richards comes across in his email as a hostile Government employee out to cause maximum embarrassment and trouble for the Government because he is opposed to their election-mandated policy."

"We believe he should resign and will ask the Minister for Timberlands, Pete Hodgson, to investigate his conduct."

Forest and Bird will also be seeking an explanation from the Director General of MAF why one of his senior employees had advised the group by a MAF email on how to embarrass Forest and Bird on its forest policy position.

Mr Chapple said several MAF employees from the Indigenous Forest Unit and from its Sustainable Resource Division were recipients of the emails.

"Much of the traffic on the email group discusses their tactics to overturn the Government's decision. Those tactics have included mounting a major letter writing campaign to politicians and newspapers and preparing opinion articles attacking "extreme preservationists" for newspapers. Drafts of the articles are circulated and comments sought from the email list."

"Any statements or letters to the editor from conservationists are circulated within hours of appearing in the media and a call for responses put out. The posting from the MAF employee critical of Forest and Bird resulted in a letter being almost immediately sent to the Press newspaper on the subject."

Mr Chapple said other tactics include advice to the group from two of its key members, Henrik Moller and Chris Perley, to ensure all letters to politicians and press releases call for either a Parliamentary Select Committee hearing, a Royal Commission or a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment inquiry.

.... ends

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