By AUDREY YOUNG
A senior manager of state-owned Timberlands is likely to be sacked today after the Prime Minister accused him of a "guerrilla warfare" e-mail campaign against the Government.
A widely circulated e-mail from Kit Richards, Timberlands' general manager of planning, talked of putting personal pressure on Helen Clark, Timberlands Minister Pete Hodgson and Environment Minister Marian Hobbs over the Government's decision to stop the company logging beech.
A fuming Helen Clark has made it clear she thinks Mr Richards must be sacked.
Timberlands chairman Warren Young said last night that he expected to talk to the Prime Minister soon, possibly today, and wanted the matter resolved quickly.
Asked last night if Mr Richards would be sacked from his $100,000-a-year job, Mr Young would not be specific, but said: "The ethical and moral standards at issue are not up to the level that the board requires of all employees of Timberlands.
"I think the issue is of sufficient significance to require an early determination of the matter."
Mr Young confirmed that Mr Richards was the source of the e-mail released yesterday by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society.
The e-mail, circulated to 46 addresses on December 19, included the following: "The only chance is to put real heat on Clark and Hodgson personally. That may not alter anything over here but unless their fingers are burnt, they are not going to change.
"Marian Hobbs has to be another target and fast. She may not be as dyed-in-the-wool Forest and Bird as Clark ... She needs to be pressured to visit and see and hammered over the appalling example set by her Government in terms of breaching the intent, ethic and practice of the RMA [Resource Management Act].
"You should be pressuring the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to get involved also."
Helen Clark said Mr Richards' behaviour was "completely unacceptable within a public sector organisation."
"We are asking the Timberlands chair, Warren Young, to explain why this employee should continue his employment given this apparently disgraceful conduct."
The e-mail reinforces evidence in Nicky Hager's controversial book Secrets and Lies that Timberlands engaged in elaborate political campaigns to influence the policy of its masters in Government.
Several Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry employees had received e-mails but the acting director, George Rogers, said he was "absolutely confident" that none of his staff had been involved in political campaigns against Government policy.
Mr Richards has dedicated much of his job at Timberlands West Coast to persuading people to accept the company's case for sustainable logging.
Secrets and Lies, which Hager co-wrote with Bob Burton, detailed examples of Mr Richards' involvement in targeting politicians and lobby groups.
According to the book, which was based on volumes of leaked documents, Mr Richards was one of the key staff involved in formulating and carrying out the company's public relations strategy.
It was also his job to guide visitors, including journalists, on trips to the native forests to explain why the company believed it could carry out sustainable logging.
The 41-year-old joined the Forestry Service in 1977, working as a forester in Hokitika, before joining Timberlands in 1990.
By AUDREY YOUNG