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Change in Hearing Panel for Plan Change 5

10 April 2013

Change in Hearing Panel for Plan Change 5

A challenge to the composition of the Hearing Panel for the Regional Resource Management Plan Change 5 hearing has resulted in one change to the Commissioners on the panel.

Four people were appointed by HBRC as accredited Commissioners with a wealth of experience and a commitment to joint resource management in terms of Maori. The appointees were Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillor Christine Scott, Professor Roger Maaka, Mike Mohi (HBRC Maori Committee Chairman) and Denis Nugent (independent commissioner from Wanaka).

The challenge was specifically concerning a conflict of interest for Mrs Scott and Professor Maaka, and their roles in HBRC and HBRIC Ltd. There was a further challenge from Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc about Mr Mohi’s participation and his representation within Maoridom.

Mr Nugent took the chair to hear the challenge, with the challenged commissioners leaving the table.

Hawke’s Bay Fish & Game had made the challenge, expressing concern about the importance of the plan change on land use and water management and the perceived conflict of interest with the current and previous roles of the two commissioners in terms of the proposed water storage dam. Their view was supported by a number of environmental groups.

The challenged commissioners were given a right of reply. Cr Scott commented that her oath of office required her to consider the entire region’s well being but acknowledged the perception of a conflict of interest did exist.

Professor Maaka said that he had sympathy with some of the positions, but that he had been appointed to the Ruataniwha Water Storage Board Committee as a subject matter expert in Māori cultural and environmental matters and Mana Whenu relationships after his appointment to the Hearing Panel for Plan Change 5. He strongly supported co-governance of resources by Maori and stated that he was used to making impartial decisions on these matters.

Mr Mohi outlined his long history of working with water ways and wetlands plus representation on various Maori organisations, and that he was also used to managing conflicts of interest.

Commissioner Denis Nugent considered all the comments and consulted with legal representation.

Commissioner Nugent commented that in dealing with conflicts of interest, perception is often as important as the issue itself, and while in the strict legal sense there was no conflict of interest, in terms of the importance of the issue, perception over-rides the legal position.

He ruled that Commissioner Scott would stand down, but that Commissioner Maaka and Commissioner Mohi remain on the panel with himself as Chair to continue the hearing.

The hearing now continues today.

ENDS

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