Playing politics with West Coast windfall trees

National have announced that they will introduce special legislation to allow the recovery of windfall trees on the West Coast

Government to allow recovery of West Coast windfall timber

Special legislation is to be passed by Parliament to enable the recovery of high value native timber blown over in Cyclone Ita on West Coast public conservation land, Dr Nick Smith announced today.

“We need to take a pragmatic approach and enable the timber to be recovered where it can be done so safely and with minimal environmental impact. This initiative will provide welcome jobs and economic opportunities for the West Coast at a difficult time, and will provide a financial return to DOC that can be reinvested in conservation work,” Dr Smith says.

Nick Smith said in Parliament yesterday that National have the support of the Maori Party, United Future and possibly NZ First.  Greens appear to strongly oppose it.

A Labour activist signalled opposition via a blog post at The Standard – Smith plans sale of trees to fund DOC.

David Cunliffe put out a media release.

John Key – Stop playing politics with West Coast windfall timber

John Key should stop playing politics with the issue of harvesting windfall timber on the West Coast and give time for a responsible consideration of legislation, Labour Leader David Cunliffe says.

“I have written to John Key to tell him that Labour’s support for government legislation to harvest windfall logs on the West Coast is subject to a number of critical amendments, including giving time for the public, particularly those on the West Coast, to have a say on the legislation.

“Given that the storm that caused this windfall was three months ago, the government’s use of urgency to pass legislation this week is clearly based on playing politics. Labour is proposing that a Select Committee consider the Bill and report back to Parliament within two weeks, still allowing for the legislation to be considered before the election.

“Further, Labour believes that any legislation must protect the conservation estate and also give West Coasters preferred access to the trees.

“We believe that the legislation should also set a two year time frame for this operation and not the five years currently being suggested. We also believe that the exemptions from the Resource Management Act seem unnecessary and would potentially provide an unfair advantage over private foresters. .

“Labour is also concerned about the economics of the whole operation. Any additional harvest of native timber may collapse timber prices and undermine existing sawmills.

“I believe that this indecent rush over passing this legislation has got a lot more to do with playing politics then finding sustainable jobs for the West Coast. Labour supports job creation but we want to ensure any change to the Conservation Act does not open the door to the logging of our native timber on Conservation land.

“We urge the government to take on board our proposals and amendments to allow the legislation to reflect this important balance.

This seems to be another yeah/nah approach from Cunliffe, and he appears to be the one trying to play politics with it. It would be very awkward for Labour to oppose the plan, but they want to make some political mileage out of it.

Labour’s West Coast MP Damien O’Connor tried to seek some concessions in Parliament:

Hon Damien O’Connor : Will the Minister support an amendment to his bill that will ensure that West Coast businesses and West Coast people are the beneficiaries of the jobs that he claims will come from his bill?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : It would be a nonsense for us to say that the timber can be used only on the West Coast. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot even hear myself think, and I am attempting to—

Mr SPEAKER : Order! The question has been asked, and an answer is required, and it will be given without this level of barracking coming from my left.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I point out that there is a sawmill in Moutere, in the Nelson area, that could well use the timber. I have had letters from furniture makers in Auckland and Christchurch who would want to use the timber. I cannot believe the Labour Party is now going to require that natural products be used only in their local area. It seems like an out for a very embarrassed member for West Coast—Tasman.

There’s some doubt whether NZ First will support it as this exchange shows:

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : I have had very strong support, particularly from the West Coast community. I have also had other support, and I thank both the United Future party and the Māori Party for recognising the unique situation on the West Coast. I have also had indications of support from New Zealand First, but my understanding is—

Rt Hon Winston Peters : No, you haven’t.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Yes I have. Andrew Little told me yesterday.

Hon Member : Andrew Little?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH : Andrew Williams—I apologise.

The Government would have sufficient votes for this without NZ First.

I think this will be introduced to Parliament today.

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1 Comment

  1. O’Connor may cross floor over windfall timber | Your NZ

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