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Anderton Is A Mouthpiece For Malaysian Forestry

27 May 2005

Jim Anderton Is A Mouthpiece For Malaysian Forestry

Every year the organisers (and sometimes the judges) of the annual Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Coporation Operating In Aotearoa/New Zealand get approached before, during or after (or all three) the selection of the winner(s) by Corporate Communications Managers or PR firms, wanting to know why their employer is a finalist, trying to persuade us not to pick their employer as a finalist, or expressing outrage and issuing threats after the event. Contact Energy and Westpac maintained this noble tradition for the 2004 Roger Award (won by Telecom; you can read the Judges' Report at www.cafca.org.nz , follow the Roger Links).

But this time there was a new and unique component. We got our first ever approach from a politician, writing in support of one of the placegetters (Malaysian forestry TNC, Ernslaw One, which came third). Not just any old obscure backbencher, either. Our correspondent was none other than Jim Anderton, who wrote in his triple capacity as Minister, MP and Leader of the Progressives. "... You should issue a public withdrawal of your unsustainable allegations against a company which is actually doing a good job for New Zealand workers".

There's nothing "unsustainable" and they're not "allegations". The people leading the Environment Court case against Ernslaw's plans for a sawmill at Whanagpoua in the Coromandel have already been in touch pointing out the mistakes in Jim's May 12 letter.

This would just mark another chapter in the sad decline of Jim Anderton, not worthy of comment, if it wasn't for a startling coincidence that I happened to notice when I read Jim's letter alongside the Gisborne Herald story (May 3, "Attack on Ernslaw One 'grossly unfair'") quoting the company's managing director, Thomas Song. It was then that I realised that, in places, Song and Anderton, were word for word.

Song: "Information relating to the proposed Coromandel mill was also incorrect. This was now subject of an appeal in the Environment Court. The company was not using chemicals, and having the mill inside a forest meant there would be less visible impact and fewer logging trucks on main roads...".

Anderton: "...Your information relating to the mill at Whangapoua is also incorrect. There is currently an appeal before the Environment Court relating to this operation, but for the record, the company is not using chemicals as alleged, and having the mill inside the forest means that the environmental impact has been significantly reduced with less visible impact and fewer logging trucks on main public roads...".

Our advice to Jim is, get a new letter writer. Or should that be, Songwriter?

And, "for the record", the Coromandel campaigners confirm that the company has applied to use highly toxic fungicides; the mill will not be situated in the forest but on a farm bought for the purpose; the mill will increase traffic on the Whangapoua hill road, which has no passing bays, by seven times; and will cause such vibrations at the Te Rerenga School that the only solution suggested by the Thames Coromandel District Council is to shift the school.

All in all, it sounds like another win-win, Jim. For Ernslaw One, that is. Pity that you couldn't leave them to do their own dirty work.

Muray Horton Secretary/Organiser


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