Thousands on West Coast expected to protest Govt changes

Organisers of a rally planned for November 17 to protest a raft of Government changes -- from whitebaiting to mining and farming -- say they believe West Coasters will mass in their thousands.

A first protest held 16 months ago at the Taramakau Bridge opening drew 5000 people in protest at the proposal to ban new mines on conservation land.

Since then, even more legislation has been announced which has caused concern on the West Coast.

Organisers of the rally, titled 'Naturally Together', include Greymouth businessman Peter Haddock and Westland Mayor Bruce Smith. They said today it was a bid to protect the industries that support West Coast towns, communities and way of life.

"More than any other region in New Zealand, the West Coast makes its living off the land -- moss pickers, dairy farmers, beef farmers, whitebaiters, timber workers, goldminers, coalminers, tourism operators, conservation workers, greenstone carvers ..." they said in a release.

"Where does it stop? All these industries are the ones that generate the jobs in our schools, hospitals, supermarkets, cafes, restaurants."

If jobs went, the people would follow.

Industries would be even more marginal due to the new freshwater plan, proposed mining ban, the national policy statement on indigenous biodiversity, the risk of 35% of private land on the West Coast being labelled as a significant natural area, and the rejection of the Waitaha River hydro electric scheme.

"It just keeps coming," organisers said.

"West Coasters are gathering to celebrate how we live from the land and for the land, and highlight the threat posed to our way of life by well-intended but ill-considered Government policies."

The rally will run from 10.30am to midday on Sunday, November 17 at Messenger Park, on Preston Road, Greymouth.

Organisers ask those attending to be "positive, respectful and factual", with a focus on policies, not personalities. Details are on the Facebook page Naturally Together -- A Call to Action.

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