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Coromandel People Defeat Malay Forestry, Anderton

Coromandel People Deliver Stunning Defeat To Malaysian Forestry TNC & Jim Anderton

CAFCA congratulates the Whangapoua Environmental Protection Society (WEPS) for its stunning victory in the Environment Court this month. It took an action which led to the Court blowing out of the water the $30 million sawmill proposal of Blue Mountain Lumber, a subsidiary of Malaysian forestry transnational corporation, Ernslaw One (which is itself part of the Rimbunan Hijau conglomerate).

Ernslaw One is no stranger to us, and indeed it came third in the 2004 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand. To read the Judges’Report detailing the reasons why, go to www.cafca.org.nz and follow the Roger Award Links.

But WEPS is not yet out of the woods (pun intentional). Even though they won in the Environment Court, they are facing costs into six figures because they initiated the action. Their lawyer is applying for costs, but in the meantime they face the usual financial dilemma of a community groups versus the deep pockets of Big Business. Blue Mountain Lumber has publicly stated that, so far, it has spent “the thick end of $1 million” (Waikato Times, 21/7/05; “Court axes Coromandel mill plan”, Simon O’Rourke). Plus WEPS has still to fight another court battle, this time in partnership with the Department of Conservation, in an attempt to stop Ernslaw One harvesting its thousands of hectares of pine trees on the Coromandel.

They need all the help they can get: You can send donations to:

Mrs M. Olliver, Secretary, WEPS Inc., RD2, Coromandel. Or you donate it directly to: WEPS Inc, Kiwibank Now Account, Number 38 9001 399122 00.

Jim Anderton Needs A New Songwriter

This Environment Court decision is also a major poke in the eye for Cabinet Minister, Jim Anderton. After the 2004 Roger Award winners were announced (Telecom came first; Contact Energy was runner up), he became the first ever politician, let alone Minister, to write to us on behalf of one of the winners. Jim wrote in his triple capacity as Minister, MP and Leader of the Progressives.

"I see that the company Ernslaw One features in your most recent Roger Awards on the basis that it had been the source of a large number of job losses on the East Coast, and for reasons of health and safety regarding their sawmilling complex at Whangapoua. I don't mind a bit of political knockabout and I have always been mildly amused by these satirical awards, but in this case you have made a serious error. Neither of these accusations are correct….

"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. How you respond to this letter is up to you, but it seems to me, in all fairness, that you should issue a public withdrawal of your unsustainable allegations against a company which is actually doing a good job for New Zealand workers" (letter to CAFCA, 12/5/05).

There's nothing "unsustainable"and they're not "allegations". The Roger judges don’t make their decisions based on hearsay or their personal opinions but, like all judges, on the basis of the evidence presented to them. For three years now, CAFCA has been following the campaign waged against the proposed sawmill by WEPS, and their impeccably researched material constituted a lot of that evidence.

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 (3/5/05, "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? What a pity that Jim couldn't leave Ernslaw One to do its own dirty work. And, "for the record", the Coromandel campaigners confirm that the company had applied to use highly toxic fungicides; the mill would not be situated in the forest but on a farm bought for the purpose; the mill would increase traffic on the Whangapoua hill road, which has no passing bays, by seven times; and would cause such vibrations at the Te Rerenga School that the only solution suggested by the Thames Coromandel District Council would be to shift the school.

Murray Horton


Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa
Box 2258, Christchurch, New Zealand

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