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West Coast Accord Bill Sets New Precedent

West Coast Accord Bill Sets New Precedent In Unbridled Power

The Government's legislation on the Timberlands West Coast forests sets a new benchmark in the abuse of Parliament's powers, says Opposition Conservation spokesman Eric Roy.

"The Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill is a litany of Parliament abuses:

* It seeks to bypass the National Parks Act by allowing a forest to be declared a National Park without any referral to the New Zealand Conservation Authority.

* The process for the Bill's consideration is being truncated - it must be reported back to Parliament by August, rather than the normal six months for submissions.

* It blatantly breaches the West Coast Accord signed by now Justice Minister Phil Goff in 1986.

* It is retrospective in that it comes into force on 10 May, even before it was tabled in Parliament.

* It bypasses the Primary Production Select Committee, chaired by Damien O'Connor, responsible for Timberlands West Coast and instead is referred to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, chaired by Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"Clause eight of the Bill is particularly sneaky. It bypasses the normal process for consideration of new, or additions to existing, National Parks. There has been a consensus, lasting over fifty years, that the integrity of National Parks must be maintained by strict ecological criteria and independent assessment by the New Zealand Conservation Authority. The Bill bypasses this process and allows the Government to willy-nilly declare areas National Parks.

"This is a dangerous precedent that undermines the integrity of the National Parks Act that was specifically designed to ensure that it could not be used for political reasons.

"National will be advocating amendments to ensure any additions to National Parks go through proper section eight requirements and independent assessment by the New Zealand Conservation Authority," Mr Roy said.

Ends

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