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Coast Action Network creation of Timberlands: FACT

Coast Action Network a creation of Timberlands: FACT

Secrets and Lies, a book released yesterday by Nicky Hager and Bob Burton, proves once and for all that Coast Action Network (CAN) is a creation of Timberlands and their PR companies.

"Secrets and Lies quotes numerous leaked documents which prove beyond any doubt that Timberlands and its PR companies plotted to create a 'front group' explicitly to serve their purposes. The book clearly documents how Timberlands used CAN for its own politically motivated ends," said Native Forest Action spokesperson Dean Baigent-Mercer.

Minutes of meetings between Timberlands and two of its three PR companies, Shandwick and head consultants, reveal that on 1 July 1997 they instigated a plan to create a "new body" which would "demonstrate leadership in dealing with environmental opposition" (quotes from meeting minutes).

Mr Hager and Mr Burton’s book explains (chapter 9, pp. 160-163) that during the following 18 months the main activity of the group was to write letters to editors and MPs. "According to the book many of these letters were written by Shandwick and were then sent to CAN members other coasters to sign as if they were their own” said Mr Baigent-Mercer.

Supporting evidence includes a fax with a Shanwick letterhead from Rob McGregor to Timberlands’ Jacqui Low, dated November 4, 1997 (P. 161), which says:

Jacqui Diana, Princess of Wales As discussed, the revised letter to the Minister of Conservation follows together with the letters I have just drafted for the editors of The Greymouth Evening Star and The Westport News. ...

I will now get the disk with these letters couriered to you....

Thank you for your help with this and for arranging for the Action Group to dispatch the letters on their letterhead and in the name of their organisation. Better this salvo comes from them than Timberlands. Kind regards

Rob McGregor

These letters were designed to be used to counter a proposal by conservationists for a Timberlands forest to be protected from logging and dedicated to Princess Diana.

Secrets and Lies documents many other instances of close collaboration between Timberlands and CAN (chapter 10, pp. 187-188). "It reveals that CAN was "launched" not just once or twice, but three times, with each launch especially designed to gained publicity. The most recent “launch” occurred in Greymouth in April this year," said Peter Russell, West Coast NFA spokesperson, who was present at the event.

During its third launch, Barry Nicolle, the group's current unelected chair, publicly stated that CAN was "not Timberlands", and that CAN are "their own people". However, the book reveals that he spent that very afternoon in a meeting with Timberlands' senior management. The entire Greymouth meeting focused on asking people to support "sustainable forestry" (sic) on the Coast. Its political motivation was expressed clearly to the audience who were urged to write letters to Helen Clark sayiing they supported Timberlands' native forest logging.

"The proof is in the book, and I’m sure most West Coast people are already suspicious enough about Timberlands’ to consider its contents seriously. I strongly urge West Coasters to read chapters 9 and 10 which describe very clearly how Timberlands has been attempting to manipulate them for their own purposes," said Mr Russell.

"Why is CAN silent on the likely privatisation of Timberlands, when privatisation will mean no commitment to use local labour or local sawmills?"

"We hope the newspapers print the evidence presented in this book so all West Coast people can assess its contents for themselves."

"Native Forest Action is disgusted with Timberlands' attempts to manipulate West Coast people to convince politicians that it is necessary to exploit some of our last remainig rainforests."

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