A National MP faces tough questions after joining an illegal chainsaw attack on native mangroves the day after she was re-elected to office.
Sandra Goudie joined around 120 protesters who used slashers and chainsaws to clear a mangrove patch the size of two rugby fields in Whangamata Harbour last Sunday.
The previous night she was re-elected MP for Coromandel with a 9700 vote majority.
Mrs Goudie told the Herald on Sunday she had not done anything illegal, and had simply stacked plants that had already been chopped down.
She did not regret being at the protest, which she described as "a wake-up call for regional politicians".
"I've put myself down there and I'll stand by it," she said.
"These people are sick of the political correctness crap. They don't mind a bit of oversight or a few guidelines, but they just want tools to manage it, or they want Environment Waikato to manage it.
"We've got to knock some of this red tape on the head."
Mangroves cannot be removed without resource consent, but their status has sharply divided residents, many of whom say mangroves are an eyesore and a hazard preventing the community making full use of the harbour.
Others maintain mangroves are a valuable part of the estuarine eco-system. As well as a habitat for marine life and shellfish, they reduce coastal erosion by protecting the shore from waves.
Last weekend's protest marked the second Sunday in a row locals had gathered to chop the plants.
After being alerted by a resident, an Environment Waikato officer attended the second protest to gather evidence.
Coastal programme manager Hugh Keane said the local MP's presence did not send "a helpful message". He urged the community to follow the resource consent process.
A spokesman for National leader Don Brash said he had no comment on Mrs Goudie's involvement, calling it "a local matter".
Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons - a Coromandel resident- said as an MP it was inappropriate for Mrs Goudie to engage in "vigilante action". However, she wasn't known for her "ecological understanding".
"This is a popular move and I think that's why she's attracted to it. She likes to be popular. She's just won a big majority in the seat," she said. "But condoning and supporting that kind of illegal action against the rules set by the regional council makes it very difficult for her as the local MP to work with the local authorities for the good of the Coromandel."
She said the removal of the mangroves showed a poor understanding of their role in coastal eco-systems.
"We seem to be back, in a way, to the 1950s when mangroves were widely regarded as just a place for rubbish dumps."
But Mrs Goudie said the protest was the work of a group of "hard-working citizens" who took pride in the environment.
The low vote for the Greens in the electorate Mrs Fitzsimons held from 1999-2002 showed they hadn't been listening to community issues.
Mrs Fitzsimons polled third last week, nearly 13,000 votes behind Mrs Goudie.
Environment Waikato was not planning to prosecute, although charges remained an option if the illegal chopping continued.
"We're trying to work with the community on this one rather than taking a heavy-handed approach," Mr Keane said.
Representatives of Environment Waikato and the Whangamata Harbour committee will meet tomorrow to discuss the issue.
- HERALD ON SUNDAYBy Patrick Crewdson