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Election result great news for forest conservation

Election result great news for forest conservation

28 November 1999

FOREST AND BIRD MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Election result great news for forest conservation

Contact: Kevin Smith (04) 934-2473 home or (04) 385-7374 work

Conservationists are delighted with the election outcome as they claim it gives the Labour/Alliance coalition a mandate to end the logging of West Coast rainforests by Timberlands West Coast.

The Forest and Bird Protection Society's Conservation Director, Kevin Smith, said those parties who backed an end to the logging all fared well in the election, both nationally and on the West Coast.

"The decision of National, ACT and New Zealand First to campaign hard on the logging issue appears to have backfired badly for them."

"Labour have easily held the West Coast/Tasman seat and the combined party vote on the West Coast for the three parties promising to protect the rainforests has exceeded the combined party vote of the three parties backing the logging," said Mr Smith.

The Labour, Alliance and Greens combined party vote totalled 10,551, with the National, ACT and New Zealand First total being 10,496.

"Most pundits were predicting a West Coast hiding for the pro-environment parties but their vote has held up remarkably well."

Mr Smith, a former West Coast resident, said that the Coast economy was no

longer reliant on native forest logging and this was confirmed by the election result.

"Tourism, outdoor recreation and conservation management can generate better employment opportunities from the rainforests than controversial and environmentally-damaging logging schemes."

"The proposals by Labour and the Alliance to vest the Timberlands plantation forests in the local authorities was also well received on the West Coast."

Mr Smith said he hoped the new coalition government would move quickly to end the beech and rimu logging.

"Labour has said that Timberlands' hastily signed rimu contracts may be a stumbling block but that they were committed to bringing the rimu logging to an end as soon as possible."

Mr Smith said he expected the new government to hold Timberlands' management and its Board of Directors to account for their extraordinary attacks on Labour and the Alliance during the election campaign and for the company's massive expenditure on a public relations campaign to discredit environmentalists.

Mr Smith said he hoped that National in its election post-mortems would recognise the need to give a far higher priority to environmental issues.

"There was a huge gulf between the National and ACT position on green issues and that of Labour and the Alliance. If the parties of the right are to appeal to a broader constituency in future elections they need to develop credible green policies.

Mr Smith said the only election disappointment for conservationists was the heart-breaking failure of the Greens to break through the 5% barrier or to win the Coromandel electorate.

"We hope Jeanette Fitzsimons will come through on special votes as the absence of her and her deputy Rod Donald from the new parliament would be a real setback for conservation," said Mr Smith.

.... ends


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