A bill allowing the retrieval of storm blown trees on parts of the West Coast conservation estate has passed into law with two Labour MPs crossing the floor in support.
After being introduced this afternoon, the West Coast Wind-blown Timber (Conservation Lands) Bill completed its third reading by 65 to 51 with National, Maori Party, United Future and Brendon Horan and two Labour votes in favour.
Labour’s Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene voted for the bill.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith said in the third reading debate that the bill was sensible and pragmatic and the country was not so wealthy it could allow all the valuable trees to rot. The bill would create jobs in an environmentally safe way.
Smith said Labour had argued for the bill to be limited for two years, while saying allowing the logging over five years would create a flood of timber which would hurt the industry.
Smith said it was first time he had seen in 24 years two Labour MPs vote against its caucus.
Labour’s Ruth Dyson said Smith was arrogant and out of touch, riding rough shod over serious amendments put forward by Labour as part of a “cheap political stunt”.
The bill ended a 27 year old agreement to not log native trees on conservation land, Dyson said.
NZ First MP Richard Prosser said his party wanted to support the bill, but the way it was constructed had left too many questions which the Government had refused to answer.
Earlier the bill completed its second reading by 72 to 44 with National, NZ First, Maori Party, United Future, Brendan Horan and two Labour votes in favour.
During the committee stages a number of MPs put up amendments.
These included changes to the area where timber could be removed from, reducing the five year life of the bill, restrictions on logging activities to West Coast companies and other matters
A number of Opposition MPs expressed concern the bill would result in wider logging take place on the West Coast and wondered how it would be enforced.
Green MP Eugenie Sage said the bill was changing the fundamental focus of the Department of Conservation and gave too much discretion to the Director-General.
During the Debate Labour MP Rino Tirikatene said he was grateful to Labour Leader David Cunliffe and his caucus for allowing him and Damien O’Connor to support the Government bill, which Labour is opposing.
He said Labour would have supported the bill if National had made the changes they required to the bill. Maori were aware of conservation values, but they were also pragmatic, he said.
All opposition amendments were defeated and the bill was reported without amendment.
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