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MPs Vow To Fight For Murupara

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Peter Dunne
Peter Dunne

Wellington, Oct 7 NZPA - A meeting in Murupara today to protest against Timberlands' ban on public access to Kaingaroa Forest and its lakes and rivers has ended with two MPs promising to fight for it to be lifted.

United Future leader Peter Dunne and National's Rotorua MP Todd McClay went to the meeting, which Mr Dunne said was attended by more than 100 people who were "passionate and fiery" about the ban.

He said that until two years ago the people of the small Central North Island town, and the tourists they depended on, had largely unrestricted access to the rivers and the surrounding forest for food collection, as well as gathering firewood and pine cones.

"These resources are very important for a relatively poor rural community, along with access for the hunters, fishers and kayakers who are Murupara's economic lifeblood," he said.

"If they don't work for Timberlands, the only other employment is around tourism."

Mr Dunne said that two years ago Timberlands unilaterally decided to ban access to the forest and publicly owned rivers and lakes from October to the end of April each year.

"This ends years of open access to the Rangataiki River -- scene of the 1991 world fly fishing championships and a river prized by anglers the world over -- during the months of the fishing season," he said.

"The reasons given have been fire risk. There has never been a fire in the forest through many, many years of hunters and fishers having access to the forest, they are by definition safety and conservation-minded people."

Mr Dunne said Timberlands' stance had hit local businesses hard, and was "the last straw" for some which were already struggling in tough economic times.

He said he and Mr McClay were committed to championing the rights of the Murupara people.

"It is rural New Zealand and they're getting done over," he said.

Timberlands declined to attend the meeting. Mr Dunne said it was talking to local iwi but had shut everyone else out.

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