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Time To End “Emotive Bull” Over West Coast Logging

Representatives of the wood sector of the National Distribution Union are to meet with Deputy Prime Minister, Jim Anderton, over the weekend in attempt to try and retain West Coast rimu contracts. Scoop's West Coast correspondent John Howard reports.

The Greymouth Evening Star last night reported that union secretary, Jim Jones, will also invite representatives of some of the companies directly involved with the issue to the weekend meeting with Mr Anderton.

Mr Jones said it was time for "the emotive bullshit" over the issue to stop.

He said the green movement and the timber industry were both guilty of playing the emotional hand rather than dealing with fact.

His union believed sustainable management of Crown-owned native timber should be allowed.

Mr Jones suggested existing rimu contracts should be allowed to run with one proviso.

" They should be allowed to run until such time an independent, well qualified research team can do a comprehensive study and provide a factual conclusion as to whether the current regime of rimu harvesting is sustainable or not," Mr Jones said.

"Timberlands has been recognised worldwide as having developed innovative sustainable harvesting we want to lose that?" he said.

In its pre-election manifesto the Labour Party recognised that it will need to take action to rationalise the West Coast logging regime and promised to establish a panel of experts to apply appropriate conservation criteria with a view to transferring any land meeting those criteria to the DOC estate.

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That has not been done which has entrenched Coasters views they are being treated unfairly by the Government particularly when South Westland rimu is already sustainably harvested according to the law.

Mr Jones disagreed that Greens and environmentalists would never be happy until all native logging on public land was stopped.

"That is not true of all Greens. I have a saying that you have to be on the planet before you can save it. We have worked positively with many Greens in other areas and I'm sure there are many who would support sustainable management of indigenous forests," he said.

"My big worry is that members within Cabinet may not look at the facts but instead deal with it on an emotional basis," Mr Jones said.

"Coasters can be assured that Mr Anderton and Dr Cullen will give it their best shot in trying to convince Cabinet colleagues to allow the contracts to run," he said.

Meanwhile, West Coast/Tasman MP Damien O'Connor says the Cabinet decision over rimu contracts will be the test of Government credibility.

"I am appreciative of Michael Cullen and Jim Anderton's support for the West Coast position. The commercial world and primary industry sectors are watching closely the Government's management of the issue.

West Coast mayors have now receive expert professional economic-impact advice that if the South Westland rimu contracts are also to end before 2008, a further $30 million will need to be added to the $120 million so far promised.

The Coast has also lost more that 250 jobs in the last 5 years through Government simply moving functions off the Coast. 130 jobs have been lost in the mining industry over that time while more that 1,000 15-24 year-olds have left the Coast in the last 10 years.

Coaster's say while these losses might appear small to people living in big cities, they have been devasting for the West Coast with a total population of just 32,000 in an area larger than between Auckland and Wellington.

With feelings running high, monday's Cabinet decision will determine what future action the West Coast communities will take and whether they will accept any package at all.

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