By Maureen Pugh, National Party List MP.
I’m proud to be a coaster, and I was proud to attend a 4000 strong call to action on the West Coast last week alongside Leader of the National Party Simon Bridges and other National MPs.
The message being delivered was clear and respectful; Government policy is affecting West Coasters’ livelihoods, and they want the Government to acknowledge this. Representatives from affected industries such as timber, mining, tourism, farming, forestry, and electricity—as well as Ngāti Waewae and two of the local mayors, all spoke and made their points well.
Unfortunately the Government still refuses to listen, with no Ministers accepting the invitation to attend. Even the West Coast’s sitting MP Damien O’Connor didn’t show up, and later said attendees had their ‘head in the sand’. He doesn’t seem to realise his job is to advocate for the West Coast in Government, not the other way round.
The Government’s restrictive policies are having a direct effect on some of the West Coast’s most profitable industries. They’ve banned mining on all of DoC’s stewardship land, which is costing thousands of jobs just so thousands of hectares can remain covered in gorse. As well as blocking an application for clean green energy generation with the Waitaha Hydro Scheme, implementing tough restrictions on farming and even trying to ban whitebaiting.
All of these things are the lifeblood of the West Coast.
We're not making a case for open slather on our stewardship land, all we want is a case by case analysis. It doesn’t need to be mining or the environment, it should be mining and the environment. That is the approach that has been applied for years and that’s why the West Coast still looks so pristine.
Coasters have every right to be concerned about what this Government is doing to their region, and the Government has a duty to listen to what they have to say. I heard from two young miners last Sunday who said they’ve seen an exodus of their friends leaving the Coast, and that they might have to leave for the sake of their careers as well. It’s sad that hard working young coasters are being forced away from the region, as they in turn support our schools, our supermarkets, our cafes, our retail, our sports clubs and our volunteer organisations. There’s a risk of the area becoming a ghost town if this continues.
A National Government would give approval for the Waitaha Power Scheme, we will use scientific evidence and facts before making decisions about farming and aquaculture and we will allow access to stewardship land on a case by case basis. As the National Party’s List MP based on the West Coast and spokesperson for West Coast Issues I will continue advocating for these issues and making sure the West Coast has a voice in Parliament.
Maureen Pugh is a National Party List MP.