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Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill

Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill

PRESS RELEASE

The Magna Carta Society has issued a strongly worded statement over Government's intention to legislate the 1986 West Coast Accord out of existence.

Society secretary and Hokitika resident, Maree Howard, says the West Coast Accord is not just about trees and forests, it is also about access to, and sustainable use of other resources, including coal.

Yet the Bill is entitled the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill.

"The Bill is therefore misnamed and the basis of the legislation is misguided, because its intention is not demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society in terms of the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990," Mrs Howard said.

"The intent of the proposed legislation is clear - it is not about a product (trees), it could just as easily be about a can of baked beans or a widget," she said.

"What is at the core of the Bill is the intention to extinguish rights and access to sustainably use resources which were granted in a legally binding commercial contract and to do it without payment of any or adequate compensation," Mrs Howard said.

Government's $120 million offer of "adjustment assistance" to the West Coast is totally inadequate based on the Labour Party's own pre-election projections in its original offer, where that package was capitalised at 10% to $177 million.

"Why does the Government find it necessary to legislate something out of existence which was never in legislation in the first place? The question remains unanswered, but I suspect a sneaky move in this Bill to legally remove all of our rights to use any resources, sustainably used or not," Mrs Howard said.

"The Pikes River coal reserve, which is also in the Accord, comes to mind," she said.

The Government is using the same language in this Bill which was used when the Forests Amendment Act was passed in 1993. Words like "adjustment assistance" and "no compensation."

"Put simply, the coalition Government has announced a new policy to extinguish a commercial contract which was not announced as part of its pre-election manifesto, and to do so without payment of compensation. It has no electoral mandate or the "informed consent" vote of New Zealander's to do it," Mrs Howard said.

"If the phrase - the democratic will of the people as expressed in Parliament - is to mean anything in this country, the select-committee which is to hear submissions ought to throw the Bill out or read it down. In its present form, the Bill is repugnant in a free and democratic society and will likely bring odium on New Zealand and have serious impacts on decisions to invest in this country."

"We have searched extensively and we can find no other Western democracy where a Government is able to legislate to extinguish contractual rights without payment of adequate, or any, compensation," Mrs Howard said.

The Local Government and Environment Select-Committee chaired by Green Party MP, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, will hear submissions to the Bill in Hokitika on July 13. Written public submissions close on June 19.

Mrs Howard urges every West Coaster to make a written submission to the select-committee at Parliament by June 19 and also to ask to be heard verbally in Hokitika.

"People should also be aware that when they speak at a select-committee hearing they, like politicians, have the protection of Parliamentary privilege and there cannot be any retributions over what is said." Mrs Howard concluded.

ENDS


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