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$1 million injection for environmental legal aid

15 June 2000
$1 million injection for environmental legal aid

Green Party Justice spokesperson Nandor Tanczos said he was pleased that, for the first time, groups taking legal action on behalf of the environment will be able to apply for environmental legal aid thanks to a $1 million initiative from the Green Budget Package.

Mr Tanczos said that often projects and developments which were not in the best interests of the environment were pushed through, despite community opposition, because concerned groups could not afford a legal battle. This funding was designed to help such groups.

“The Green Party really wants to support those community organisations fighting for their local environment, and we’re happy that the Minister for the Environment has worked with us to set up an environmental legal aid fund.” said Mr Tanczos. “Under this initiative groups will be able to apply to the Ministry for the Environment for a grant to help with costs involved with bringing a case to court.”

He said environmental legal aid was intended to be part of the Resource Management Act when it was drafted, but under National Government’s had never been delivered. He said this $1 million would actually save court costs and wasted time as better legal advice to community groups would result in better prepared cases.

“Groups like Wellington’s Campaign for a Better City had to fundraise exhaustively in order to take Transit New Zealand to the Environment Court over their plans to push a multi-lane highway through the Te Aro flat,” he said. “Many other groups would just not have made it that far and this initiative is designed to restore a little balance to the playing field,” he said. “Ideally, legal challenges over environmental concerns should not cost a cent, but this is a step in the right direction.”

Mr Tanczos said it was unfair for the environment to so often lose in the battle between environmentally-minded locals and well-funded developers. The $1 million would give some groups the ability to mount strong legal defences on behalf of the environment and in the process save valuable areas of natural significance.

“One million dollars will make only a small start but I hope it will be significantly expanded in future years,” he said.

“The Greens campaigned hard on a more just justice system,” said Mr Tanczos. “Helping people fight for sustainability and a decent environment for their children is part of that commitment.”

Ends

Nandor Tanczos MP: 04 470 6712, 025 246 5235
JonathanHill (press secretary): 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133

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