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Forest And Bird Welcomes Legal Assistance Fund

The Forest and Bird Protection Society today welcomed the launch of the environmental legal assistance fund. Society spokesperson, Barry Weeber, said the fund will help to reduce the disparity between community groups and developers. "In the past, the absence of environmental representation meant that developers have dominated the legal processes under the Resource Management Act and sustainable management was compromised." Mr Weeber said that the fund allows the Environment Court to weigh conservation issues with developer's demands, as was originally intended under the Resource Management Act. "The equitable participation in resource management cases is essential to achieving the sustainable management purpose of the Resource Management Act."

"Forest and Bird only participates in high priority cases", Barry Weeber explained. "However, due to limited funding Forest and Bird is often unable to join resource management cases, despite important environmental concerns."

Mr Weeber said this fund ensures that where a proposal raises valid environmental concerns, those concerns can be considered by the Court in assessing whether or not an activity should be allowed.

"Forest and Bird applauds the Minister for the Environment and the Greens for this initiative to redress the imbalance inherent in environmental decision making."

Mr Weeber said it is appropriate that Government supports conservation advocacy, given the public benefit that arises from environmental protection. The fund will be allocated by a committee administered by the Ministry for the Environment to environment and community groups representing the public interest in legal proceedings. Separate funding is also available to establish environmental education and advisory services.

For further information contact Barry Weeber (04)385-7374 or (025)622-7369.

Barry Weeber Senior Researcher Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society PO Box 631 Wellington New Zealand Phone 64-4-385-7374 Fax 64-4-385-7373

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