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Economic development package for West Coast

2000 web siteLabour deputy leader Michael Cullen said today that he will be visiting the West Coast on Monday to discuss proposals for an economic development package for the West Coast with civic leaders and others.

Labour has finalised its indigenous forests' policy and has determined to bring to an end logging of Crown owned indigenous forests on land with significant conservation value.

Labour announced today that it would:
· Establish a panel of experts to apply appropriate conservation criteria to all Crown owned forestry land on the West Coast with a view to transferring any land meeting those criteria to the DOC estate.
· Transfer any management of the remaining land, along with cutting rights for any timber on those lands, to a local economic development trust with the West Coast community being the beneficial owners.

Dr Cullen said that Labour believes New Zealand should no longer be logging Crown-owned indigenous forests with significant conservation values.

He said he understood that many West Coasters would be disappointed that Labour intends to stop, at the end of existing contracts, the logging of indigenous forests on Crown land with significant conservation values.

"I am confident that we can put together a credible economic development package for the West Coast. This package will provide more jobs than the Coast was ever going to get out of the logging of publicly-owned indigenous forests.

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"It is significant that the Minister of State-owned Enterprises, in response to recent questions in Parliament, could make no promises about the number of jobs that West Coasters would receive from the proposed beech logging scheme.

Dr Cullen said that Labour West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor has asked him to go to the West Coast to meet with local leaders to discuss the options for economic development.

"What I want to discuss with the people on the West Coast is a proposal to set up a local economic development trust, owned and controlled by West Coast interests.

"It would be our intention to transfer to the trust the management and potential revenue streams from the present Timberlands resources which are not transferred into Department of Conservation control. This will include Timberlands' exotic forestry resources which have a much higher financial value than Timberlands' indigenous forest resources.

"I will also be entering into discussions about how to ensure that the trust receives significant and assured revenue streams from central government.

"The trust will be in a position, under West Coast control, to take a very active role in promoting economic growth and jobs without interference from outsiders."

The consequence of today's policy announcement is that, in government, Labour will end the logging in Crown owned natural indigenous forests. The current beech 'trials' will be stopped and the beech scheme proposed by Timberlands West Coast will not proceed. All logging of Crown owned indigenous forests will be halted as soon as supply contracts in existence at the time of this announcement are completed.

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