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Labour's Green Credentials Go On The Line

Labour's green credentials go on the line this week, according to conservationists, as the Labour caucus considers its position on West Coast native forests.

Forest and Bird's Conservation Director, Kevin Smith, said that, given the current political polls, the future of 130,000 hectares of native forests and their dependent threatened wildlife lay in Labour's hands.

"Conservationists throughout the country are looking to Labour to display the sort of environmental leadership that has been lacking in the National Government."

Mr Smith said Labour's leader Helen Clark was known to support the protection of the West Coast rainforests and this position was backed by Labour's annual conference held in November 1998.

However, conservationists were not confident of the outcome of Labour's policy deliberations as there was a determined pro-logging group within its parliamentary ranks.

Forest and Bird believes lobbying by MPs Jim Sutton and Damien O'Connor, who support Timberlands West Coast, had delayed a caucus policy decision to date.

"But it is difficult to see the vote winning potential in the key urban electorates of a policy that would have Labour sending bulldozers and chainsaws into ancient lowland forests inhabited by a dozen or more threatened species."

"When Labour had landslide victories in 1972 and 1984, they had as a key part of their election manifestos some great green initiatives. In 1972, Labour saved Lake Manapouri and in 1984 they ended the logging of publicly-owned native forests in the North Island."

Mr Smith said the West Coast had benefitted enormously from previous Labour Governments' conservation initiatives including the creation of the Paparoa National Park and the South West World Heritage Area.

"Once again the Coast will reap greater employment benefits by managing the beech and rimu forests for nature conservation, recreation and tourism than by logging them."

"The future of West Coast forestry lay in plantation forestry rather than in destructive out-of-date rainforest logging," said Mr Smith.

ends

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