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Government / Green Environmental Package

20 December 2000 Media Statement

Legal assistance key part of Government / Green environmental package

Funding for an environmental legal aid pilot scheme has been approved as part of a $2.3 million environmental initiatives package, announced today by the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs and the co-leader of the Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons. The money comes from the green issues fund agreed between the Government and the Green Party at the time of the Budget in June.

The legal aid pilot scheme is designed to assist community groups to participate better in the resource management process and to remove barriers to public participation under the Resource Management Act.

"It is clear to us that some areas of the community are not being included fully in the resource management process," Marian Hobbs said. " We hope to address that problem with this new scheme."

The package will also include funding for the development of a pesticide reduction strategy, work on environmental and social reporting for government, business and community organisations and work on ensuring our national accounts reflect the effects of economic activity on the environment.

The Environmental Legal Aid scheme is made up of two parts. The first will provide up to $20,000 to non-profit environmental community groups (including iwi and hapu organisations) who are presenting cases to the Environment Court.
Ms Hobbs says the scheme is important because it will improve the quality of public participation before the Environment Court, with the funding helping people to focus their case on the relevant issues.

The second scheme  grants for the provision of advisory, information and education services  recognises the value of providing the public with information and legal planning advice when they first become involved in a planning issue.

"Under this scheme, we expect to run seminars, provide information resources and community web pages, and establish a register of lawyers, planners and experts willing to donate service to environmental groups," Marian Hobbs said.

Another scheme makes grants available to support existing environment centres, or to establish new ones where needed. An environment centre is a place accessible to the public that provides information on a wide range of environmental information, and is available for environmental groups to meet.

"The Government and the Greens want to ensure the public have ready access to good information on the environment and advice on environmental issues," Ms Hobbs said. "These grants will help people know where to go and what to look for."

Jeanette Fitzsimons said the extra funding for environmental legal aid and environment centres recognises the work that individuals and the community play in protecting the environment.

"They should not be expected to do this work with no resources," Ms Fitzsimons said.

The schemes should be operating by early February and will be administered by the Ministry for the Environment. Applicants should contact the Ministry for details.
As part of this wider package, the Government has also provided funding to look at ways that pesticide use could be reduced.

"People have concerns about the effects of pesticides on crops, on them and on the environment," the Minister added. "Therefore, it is important to ensure that they are used only where necessary, are carefully targeted and the overall volume of pesticides is reduced."

The Ministry for the Environment  along with industry and other government departments  will begin work in early 2001 on a pesticide reduction strategy. This will build on past and current efforts by industry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, such as work on integrated pest management and organics.

A further part of the overall package will focus on encouraging and enabling private and public sector organisations to adopt methods of social and environmental reporting, or ‘triple bottom line’ reporting, Ms Hobbs said.
"Current corporate reporting practices overwhelmingly focus on financial matters," she added. "This limited approach is not compatible with the Government’s commitment to sustainable development which emphasises social and environmental outcomes as well as those that are financial or economic."
Ms Fitzsimons said environmental and social reporting was a key part of Green economic policy and she was delighted to see this implemented.

Also, the Ministry for the Environment will undertake work on national environmental accounts to better take account of the environmental effects of economic activity on the environment and more clearly identify sustainable national income.

"We are confident that this new package will address a number of environmental issues that need attention and will make a positive difference for the environment," Ms Hobbs said.

Jeanette Fitzsimons said that each year New Zealand measures the financial health of the country.

"With environmental accounting we will now also consider the health of our
environment," she added. "GDP is only one measure of how the country is performing and it is a meaningless measure if we are polluting our air, stripping our oceans and clearing our forests.

"Environmental and Social Reporting will encourage Government, business and the community to assess their initiatives in terms of the social and environmental, as well as financial, impacts. This 'triple bottom line' accounting is already being adopted by leading businesses."


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