|Tuhoe blockade Rayonier forestry on disputed Maori Land|
After a year of activity kicked off by the protest that met the Waitaingi Tribunal last year (1), a group of Tuhoe ‘confederation’ members set up two roadblocks on Thursday afternoon near Waimana. The protest is directed against the sale of 94,300 hectares of timberland last year. Rayonier, a Florida-based multi-national company which is the seventh largest private owner of timberland in the United States, bought the forest off Carter Holt Harvey for $435 million.(2)
Two roads into the Matahi Forest and the public Matahi Valley Road are being blocked with metal gates, cars and cones. Up to 50 people are at blockades and a camp has been set up.
Tangata Whenua have taken action against Carter Holt Harvey, the 2001 Roger award winner, for many years in this dispute.
Omuriwaka kaumatua Tom Te Pairi said: "Rayonier have brought stolen property, so that is why we are at the gate there turning them away." The metal gate has been erected on the Matahi Valley Road at a point where it crosses Maori-owned land.
"You take a look at the devastation up there," said Henare Heremia. "We¹re wanting to protect the forest - the pine trees should be gone in 30 years and native forest should be regenerated." Looking after the environment was a form of spiritual practice that is needed to save the earth from the dangers it is facing. "And that¹s not achieved by politicians writing laws, but people on the ground making a stand."
It is understood that Rayonier bought the forest last year as part of a $435 million purchase from Carter Holt of 94,300 hectares of timberland. Ngati Awa are also upset over the sale of forest interests from Carter Holt to Rayonier in the Eastern Bay, notably the Omataroa Rangitaiki No. 2 block.
Waaka Vercoe, chairman of the Omataroa Rangitaiki No. 2 Trust, has threatened legal action to test the validity of the sale. "We are awaiting a fixture with the Maori Land Court," Mr Vercoe said.
Former Waitangi Tribunal director Ian Shearer said Tuhoe was in a better position than Ngati Awa to air complaints about their forests. "Ngati Awa have signed a settlement on Treaty claims, but Tuhoe have at least another 12 months before the report and recommendations come from the Waitangi Tribunal," he said.
"Thus Tuhoe have more bargaining power, and the Government has an ongoing obligation to ensure the land is put to correct use until the settlement is agreed on," Dr Shearer said. Office of Treaty Settlements director Paul James said the Matahi Forest was not part of the Treaty negotiations.
"Matahi Forest is privately owned land," he said.
CWG says that occupations based on indigenous struggles are not enough to win back privatised stolen land.
It has to be expropriated by the actions of the united working class.
The Mapuche struggle in Chile is an example where the struggle to get back land taken by private forestry corporations has led to many killings and imprisonments.
Students and workers organisations are strongly backing demands for the release of political prisoners and the return of stolen land.
Trade Union green bans to back the occupations!
Return stolen Maori land!
Nationalise the land under workers control!
Updates: Tuhoe website
Foreign buyers spree
(1) January 16, 2005 Tuhoi protested the history of crown invasion and persecution.
See The Ruatoki valley blazes as Tuhoe stands tall
(2) Confederation members set up road blockades and fight for their forest
From Class Struggle 69 Oct/Nov 2006