Home' Greymouth Star : June 13th 2015 Contents Saturday
6 - Saturday, June 13, 2015
t is a wet September day in 1999, and the mood
in Greymouth is angry. is is the rst time
Labour Party deputy leader Michael Cullen has
visited the West Coast since he announced his party
would end native logging prematurely, if elected to
Little omas Sardelich-McNutt, in his red
raincoat, stands amid hundreds of protesters carrying
a chainsaw and sign saying 'don't take my dad's job'.
Dr Cullen has just left a meeting in the old
West Coast Regional Council building (now the
Greymouth Medical Centre) and gets in a car with
West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor when
the crowd goes a little wild.
e future Deputy Prime Minister is pelted with
eggs and a mob of about 30 breaks away from the
crowd and attempts to roll the vehicle. ere's a crash
as the rear lights are smashed.
Later on, composure regained, the politician says the
egg came o easily enough.
But the raw anger on show that day could be traced
e demise of native logging really started in the
mid-1970s. By 1986 the West Coast Forest Accord
aimed to ease the transition milling native trees to
exotic pine forests. e accord --- signed by all parties
from West Coast leaders to the Labour government
and leading conservation groups --- laid down a clear
transition. Clearfelling of rimu forests was to continue
in north Westland and Buller until the exotic forests
there had matured.
But a decade later this compromise was
unacceptable to some conservationists, and in 1999,
Labour announced that it would scrap the accord and
end native logging by March 31, 2002.
True to its word, and notwithstanding bitter protests
on the Coast, the accord was torn up and in its place
in June 2000, the government gave $120 million
--- $7 million to each of the four councils and the
remaining $92 million to set up what was to become
the West Coast Development Trust.
at winter, Hokitika struggled. Seven businesses
closed in eight weeks, including Super value, though
the gradual closure of Seaview Hospital and the
abrupt end to that year's tourism season were
generally blamed for the gloom.
Elsewhere on the Coast other projects were in the
pipeline. e Spring Creek underground coalmine
was under development and Macrae's Reefton
goldmine (later Oceana) was inching closer. A new
mine at Pike River was being talked about, and
Trustpower was planning for the expected surge in
Runanga octogenarian Stan Gladstone was on the
frontline of those protests, and 15 years later he is
dismayed to see the Coast hit hard times again.
Stan's rst job was as an apprentice at the Gladstone
sawmill, and later he was involved in coalmining. His
father was secretary of the Mill Workers' Union.
When Dr Cullen arrived in Greymouth that bleak
day in 1999, Stan was there with his, and his father's,
Labour Party membership --- each had 50 years.
"Michael Cullen said, 'Hello Stan," Stan recalls of
the meeting. But a de ant Stan says he would not
shake hands with a traitor.
"Don't call me a traitor," he recalls Dr Cullen saying.
"You're traitors to the West Coast," Stan replied.
And he handed back his membership and "told him
what to do with it".
Stan Gladstone also met with Helen Clark at the
RSA in Greymouth.
"Your greenies wouldn't know the di erence
between a pine tree and a lavatory," he quipped to the
In the years that followed, some people he knew
left the Coast, but others found jobs. He points out
the number of coalmines still operating on the Coast,
even as recently as the 2000s, when the mills were
Now, he's less sure: he thinks the guts have been
knocked out of coalmining.
" e mines were carrying 1000 men," he recalls.
Now, the State-owned coalminer employs only 20 or
so in the whole of the Grey district.
Hokitika man Ray Kingi was the re o cer for
the Forest Service, and then its partial successor, the
Department of Conservation.
Ray says places like Hari Hari and Totara Flat ---
once vibrant sawmilling and forestry towns --- were
particularly a ected, when native logging ended. Now,
there is just farming.
"A lot of people actually left."
He sees similarities with what is happening now
and again, he knows families who have gone from the
Coast, this time because their mining jobs have gone
the same way as those in sawmilling.
"Two families in the past three or four months have
shifted to Christchurch," Ray says.
Veteran Westport conservationist Peter Lusk says
unemployment was not actually that bad when native
" ere was a shortage of forestry workers and I
remember adverts in the papers," Peter says.
e polytechnic had to speed up its training course
to push more out. Also the mines were gearing up,
Stockton was at the start of a big roll so there were
plenty of jobs up on the plateau.
" is was good for us greenies because we'd been
worried about a backlash."
He felt sorry for the workers and sawmill
owners, who never got anything from the logging
"Us greenies initiated that payment with the idea
that they should be rst in line. Just a few weeks ago I
was talking to the owner of the last Karamea mill, and
he said nothing came his way."
Estimates vary as to how many timber workers lost
their jobs but it was probably a few hundred. e
saws continued at the big mill at Ruatapu, which
moved from rimu to radiata. Up the Grey Valley, only
Stillwater and Ngahere remained open.
Mike Keenan was at another protest in Hokitika
when former Labour turned Act MP Ken Shirley
spoke. He thinks about 1500 turned out. It was
probably the biggest one.
ese days, he is promoting the old gold boom
towns of Kumara and Ross as their development
"Forestry was a big industry and employed lots and
lots of people."
But the ree Mile mill, Henderson and Pollard at
Hari Hari and Paynter at Whataroa all closed. With
South Westland the worst a ected, Mr Keenan thinks
the DWC money should have gone two-thirds to
South Westland, and one-third to Buller. Now in the
post-mining era, he thinks Greymouth and Westport
need to look seriously at other opportunities.
" e biggest resource is water, which comes down
in bucketloads," Mike muses. A staunch opponent of
1080 poison, he would also like to see people catching
e winter of 2000 was one of discontent on the West Coast as native logging came to
an abrupt end, and with it numerous sawmills. Protesters rallied, marched, egged Labour
MP Michael Cullen and even tried to roll his car. Fifteen years down the track the Coast
is again at a crossroads, with unthinkable mass job losses in the coalmining industry.
LAURA MILLS caught up with a few of those who protested. days
One of the largest protest meetings was in Hokitika, where the Act Party's Ken Shirley and the Green Party's Jeanette Fitzsimmons,
right, spoke. Stan Gladstone, left, holding a protest board, handed over his Labour Party membership during the dispute, in disgust.
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