The West Coast and Buller regions need more resourcing in another busy tourist season, National’s spokesperson for West Coast Issues Maureen Pugh says.
“I have received confirmation from Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis that no specific West Coast region tourism projects have received investment from the International Conservation and Tourism Levy. The fund has raised over $36 million to date.
“Since 1 July 2019, the majority of international visitors have paid an arrival levy of $35 which the Government said it would spend on tourism and conservation projects and ‘unique, natural heritage areas’.
“This money would have been well spent on the regional attractions of the West Coast and Buller, which fit the criteria perfectly.
"The West Coast region, which includes Karamea and hosts the Heaphy Track and several National Parks, is actually one of the busiest tourist areas New Zealand has to offer, so the Minister should be releasing some funds to invest here.
“Centres such as Reefton, Westport, Greymouth, Hokitika, Glacier Country and Haast are desperate for assistance to support local businesses, and strong visitor arrival numbers feeding this levy should result in investment coming back into the region.
“Severe weather events over the past year have hit some businesses harder than others so it is imperative that an investment is made into repairing our reputation as a reliable destination.
“Some assistance with staff accommodation and childcare would go a long way to supporting our businesses, and I urge local communities to contact the Ministry for Tourism to ensure we are not left out of the funding distribution.”
The new chair of the West Coast District Health Board has shown how little interest he has in the role with comments that he only intends to pay attention once every six weeks, National’s West Coast Issues spokesperson Maureen Pugh says.
“Rick Barker told media ‘I'm going to remain fully-focused on my role at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council and the Environment Committee. I've been in Hawke's Bay longer than anywhere else, so I call Hawke's Bay home. It's a monthly or six-weekly meeting, and the phones, emails work pretty well’.
“This is yet another slap in the face for the Coast by this Government.
“These comments are extraordinary. Not only is Mr Barker determined to stay put in Hawke’s Bay, a region vastly different and miles away from the West Coast, but it’s his impression the role will only require a monthly or even six-weekly meetings.
“This is a big role which requires a lot of attention. I’m not sure what Mr Barker thinks the role requires but it’s more than just a meeting every four to six weeks.
“This is just par for the course by the Government. It’s not interested in the views of Coasters, and instead it’s making a full frontal assault on this region. From attempting to ban whitebaiting, banning mining on all conservation land, blocking the Waitaha Hydro Scheme, and now it’s coming after our health representation.
“The West Coast deserves better from this Government. Instead it’s being pushed around and ignored on every issue.”
Former Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith and National’s West Coast spokesperson Maureen Pugh welcome the official opening of the Paparoa Track on the West Coast.
“The new 55km Paparoa Track between Blackball and Punakaiki and the 10km Pike29 Memorial Track to the mine site are about remembering the men whose lives were lost and providing a new economic asset for the West Coast,” Dr Smith says.
“I pay tribute to Bernie Monk and the Pike Families for initiating this project, and the Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and contractors that have seen it through.
“Funding for this Great Walk was approved by Cabinet in 2016 on the basis of estimates that, five years after opening, it would see 1,000 users each year. I’m delighted that already bookings for the first year have topped 3,000.
“It’s been a tremendous privilege to have been among the first to walk the track over the past three days. The Moonlight Tops Hut has one of the most spectacular vistas I’ve seen of the many hundreds of DOC huts I’ve stayed in around New Zealand.”
“Tourism is a vital part of the West Coast economy and the new Paparoa Great Walk will bring thousands of trampers and mountain bikers to the region. It’s significant because it’s the only Great Walk that’s exclusively on the Coast,” Mrs Pugh says.
“The new track is so important to ensuring we never forget the tragedy of Pike River and the 29 lost men. The Memorial Track down to the mine site will allow people to access this area of the National Park and pay their respects.”
National MPs Nick Smith and Maureen Pugh are calling for the Government to establish a business support fund similar to that used following other disasters to help small businesses and contractors affected by the recent fires and ongoing extreme conditions.
“We have been approached by many small and medium enterprises who need support to get through this disaster,” Dr Smith says.
“These are tourism operators providing biking tours but which are shut out by the ban on access to forests and reserves, agricultural, civil and forestry contractors whose work supply has ceased due to the civil defence ban on such activities and others whose business access has been interrupted by the fires.
“These businesses are still having to pay wages, they are bleeding financially and with the ongoing extreme conditions may have little work or income for many weeks.
“We are recommending to the Government the successful model National used to help businesses get through previous disasters. The wage subsidy package provided after the Kaikoura and Canterbury earthquakes helped thousands of businesses to retain jobs and helped the communities’ wider recovery.
“The subsidy did not fully protect the businesses from the impacts but the $500 per week provided for fulltime employees and $300 for part-time employees helped them get through without dismissing staff,” Dr Smith says.
“We believe this fire, the largest in New Zealand for 60 years, and the uncertainty of when significant rain will occur means this support is needed and justified,” Mrs Pugh says.
“This recovery support will complement the Mayoral Relief Fund and the welfare support available for affected families from the Ministry of Social Development.
“The separate business support is about protecting jobs in an unsettling environment where no one knows how long it will be before full access to the forests and reserves will be restored and the ban on contracting activities revoked.
“We commend the overall effort that local and central Government has put into this emergency in Nelson and Tasman and particularly congratulate Fire and Emergency New Zealand. We’ve got most people into their homes and this proposed business support package is about ensuring we maintain their jobs,” Mrs Pugh says.
The Government needs to support a proposed Local Bill which would enable the harvesting of windblown trees on Conservation Land in the West Coast following adverse events, National’s Maureen Pugh says.
“I have been working with the West Coast Regional Council since the Government blocked my motion to have my Members Bill on this topic introduced to Parliament in April.
“This a practical Bill which embraces environmental responsibility and supports regional economic development, creating jobs and boosting incomes for families on the West Coast.
“It will allow the Director-General of the Department of Conservation to authorise the removal of specified windblown trees on Conservation Land following a significant event for harvesting.
“This Bill follows on from the legislation implemented by National following tropical Cyclone Ita which saw a number of native forests in the West Coast and Tasman severely impacted – legislation that was opposed then by Labour and the Greens.
“However, this 2014 legislation was supported by local Labour MPs Damien O’Connor and Rino Tirikatene. I challenge these MPs to respect the wish of the West Coast Regional Council and the people of the West Coast and support this Local Bill through Parliament.
“Removing and processing these trees which would otherwise lie decomposing on the West Coast forest floor would provide jobs for our region along with clearing space for native regeneration – two areas which NZ First claims to be passionate about.
“Recent Cyclones Gita and Fehi have made this Local Bill necessary as large quantities of trees were felled. We need to be prepared by implementing legislation to deal with significant events like this in the future.”
National’s West Coast based List MP Maureen Pugh says it is time for the Government to step up and deliver on the work signed off in the West Coast Economic Development Action Plan last year.
“The West Coast welcomes the sentiments of Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones which acknowledges how vital the extractive industries are for future economic activity on the West Coast.
“However, in light of Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage stated desire to ban access to Public Conservation Land – which accounts for around 84 per cent of the West Coast, not all of it high value – West Coasters remain concerned.
“The Government has shown with their decision to ban oil and gas in in Taranaki that they seem intent on doing everything it can to undermine New Zealand’s economy and prosperity.
“National supports sensible steps to protect our environment and reduce our carbon emissions. And we oppose mining on high-value conservation land but New Zealand needs a pragmatic and balanced approach to the economy and the environment.
“That’s why National signed off on the West Coast Economic Development Action Plan last year, and access to low value conservation land was a crucial element of the Action Plan. It is a relief to see NZ First are now acknowledging the importance of this to our region.
“Opening up low value conservation land and streamlining permits is necessary to make sustainable economic activity possible, and provide growing employment on the West Coast.
“In addition, National proposed that we would change legislation enabling ongoing access to timber on Public Conservation Land that is felled as a result of natural events.
“In light of the statements from Mr Jones, I welcome him to step up and deliver on the framework he has been handed through the Action Plan, instead of simply talking up splits in the coalition government.”
National Party List MP Maureen Pugh, has today urged the Government to support her Private Members’ Bill which would enable the harvesting of windblown trees on conservation land following adverse weather events.
“Today I moved a motion in Parliament, seeking support from Government MPs to have my bill adopted and set down for first reading next week. My bill would allow the Director General of DOC to authorise the removal of specified windblown trees on Conservation Land following a significant weather event,” Ms Pugh says.
“This a practical bill which embraces environmental responsibility and supports regional economic development.”
The proposed Adverse Weather Timber Recovery on Conservation Lands Bill follows on from the legislation implemented following tropical Cyclone Ita in 2014, which saw a number of native forests in the West Coast and Tasman severely impacted.
“This 2014 legislation was supported right through the process by local MP Damien O’Connor and his Labour colleague Rino Tirikatene. These two MPs saw the need for this legislation at the time, but it is disappointing the Government didn’t take a similar pragmatic approach today when they denied my motion to introduce the bill.
“Removing and processing these windblown trees which would otherwise lie decomposing on the West Coast forest floor would provide jobs for region along with clearing space for native regeneration – two areas which NZ First claims to be passionate about.
“Recent Cyclones Gita and Fehi have made this bill necessary, as large quantities of trees were felled. We need to be prepared by implementing legislation to deal with significant events like this in the future.”
National’s West Coast-Tasman based List MP Maureen Pugh welcomes news that the government will fund $199,500 towards new restroom facilities at Springs Junction.Read more