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Jones slams ‘hapu’

In true carrot and stick mode, outspoken politician Shane Jones yesterday handed Gisborne millions of dollars in government funding — before laying into “mischievous” hapu and “intoxicated” log exporters.

After announcing $27.1m of Provincial Growth Fund investments in Tairawhiti, including funds for a wood processing cluster centre of excellence and the new Matai brain research facility, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones told The Gisborne Herald he was distressed that hapu were opposing both a berth extension at Eastland Port and a barging facility at Hicks Bay.

“It’s hard to know where the blame lies with the breakdown of the relationship between the port owners and the local hapu, Ngati Oneone.

“I’m quite distressed by the fact that Ngati Oneone appear to be implacably opposed to the port extension. Port infrastructure is essential to the entire Tairawhiti region.

“They are only one hapu and I’m sure they realise they have no mandate to hold the entirety of Tairawhiti to ransom by protracting the environmental consent process.

“The hapu further north, around Hicks Bay, opposed the creation of a barging facility to deal with the forestry at that end of the coast.

“This level of hapu mischief irks me and I almost feel once the brain research facility gets up and running, they need to start looking at the intellect and the brain-processing capacity of a lot of this hapu leadership.

“They are undermining the regional growth potential for Maori and Pakeha in terms of jobs and exports. This hapu manipulation of the Resource Management Act shows they are not brainy and they should probably be introduced to the Matai Brain Institute to work out where their thinking has gone awry.”

Mr Jones’s visit coincided with a recent big drop in log export prices.

“Obviously the turbulence the industry is seeing in China, I think, is a timely reminder to New Zealand’s international log exporters that they turn their back on the domestic sector at their peril.

“These log traders have intoxicated themselves with ongoing profit in China without realising that level of economic golden sunlight never lasts forever.

“The damage, however, is very disturbing for garden-variety Kiwis who have invested heavily in their logging and extraction, etcetera, and this level of tumult will be creating a great deal of stress for them.”

Mr Jones said he would be holding a forum with key players in the industry to establish what, if anything, the Crown could do to help.

“Naturally, I’ve talked forestry up —with a megaphone.

“I think the challenge, now, is to turn places like Gisborne into sites of wood processing excellence with value-added investment, and to that end I’m very keen to proceed with the notion of having an international precinct in Gisborne, perhaps the only one in the country, to ensure the wall of wood does not exclusively disappear over the wall — and capture as much value as possible.”

Talks with potential investors from China and Japan had already taken place, but fears over the reliability of the energy supply into Gisborne had been a stumbling block, as well as the lack of a rail link from Gisborne to Wairoa.

“If Gisborne can’t cope with future log demand, they want the option of putting it on rail to Napier.

“Thirdly, they want to see an improvement in the port of Gisborne.

“I’m very disappointed that (former Eastland Group chairman) Keith Sutton is no longer involved in the governance arrangements. With Keith Sutton there, the Government had a great deal of confidence in Eastland Port.

“So, I’m going to get to the bottom of the picture of why he is no longer involved.”

NOT HOLDING BACK: Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones had strong comments to make about an iwi challenge to development of Eastland Port and "intoxicated" log exporters while in Gisborne yesterday for a two-day visit. Picture by Paul Rickard