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Interest High In Environmental Legal Assistance

Since the launch of the Environmental Legal Assistance scheme in early March, a large number of enquiries have been received and hundreds of funding application forms distributed, says the Ministry for the Environment.

¡§The number of enquiries we have received ¡V sometimes as many as 20 a day ¡V is a clear indication of the significant public interest in the scheme,¡¨ says Ministry for the Environment Secretary Denise Church.

Ms Church has also appointed a panel to review applications for environmental legal assistance and make recommendations on funding. The scheme is designed to provide funding to assist environmental, community, iwi and hapu groups involved in Resource Management Act cases before the Environment Court.

To date, the Ministry has received five completed applications, which are now being processed. Applicants will be notified on funding decisions by the end of April.

Former Environment Court judge Peter Skelton of Christchurch will chair the Environmental Legal Assistance scheme advisory panel. In addition to Professor Skelton, the panel will include six other members. These are Susan Forbes, Tom Bennion, Derek Shaw, Denis Nugent, Jo Rosier and Adrian More.

¡§Between them, the panel members have significant experience and understanding of the Resource Management Act, the Environment Court and the difficulties facing community and environment groups,¡¨ says Ms Church. ¡§We believe this experience will prove invaluable when it comes to advising the Ministry about which cases should receive funding.¡¨

Panel membership and numbers will be reviewed in June 2002, allowing the Ministry time to review and monitor the scheme¡¦s effectiveness.

Information about the scheme is available from councils, community law centres, Citizen¡¦s Advice Bureaus, and the Ministry for the Environment. Application forms can be downloaded directly from the Ministry¡¦s website at: www.mfe.govt.nz

For more information, please contact:
Kathy Perreau, Policy Advisor, Ministry for the Environment; Phone: 04-917-7546
Karl Ferguson, Media Advisor, Ministry for the Environment; Phone: 04-917-7482

NB Pleased see attached page for brief biographies on panel members
Biographies of Environmental Legal Assistance panel members

„h The chair of the panel is Associate Professor Peter Skelton CNZM. Professor Skelton has had a long career in the law. For almost 13 years he worked as a litigator -based first in Hamilton - as a partner in a firm and from 1975 to 1978 as a barrister sole. Much of this work involved town and country planning and environmental matters. Last year, he retired from the Court to take up the position of Associate Professor of Resource Management Law at Lincoln University.
„h Susan Forbes is an archaeologist absorbed in the task of researching and protecting the "once-wet coastal dune and wetland places" of the lower North Island. Her other occupations include being part of the Kapakapanui team (environment and heritage management for Te Runanga o Te Ati Awa ki Whakarongotai Runanga unit) and the Whitireia Polytechnic Research Co-ordinator. A great deal of her work in archaeology and land management involves knowledge of the Resource Management Act and the Environment Court.
„h Tom Bennion has been practicing as a barrister since 1995. He specialises in indigenous land claims and environmental law and brings his experience with the Wellington Legal Aid subcommittee where he was involved in dealing with Treaty of Waitangi claims. In his current work as a barrister a large proportion of his time is spent representing community interest cases before the Environment Court.
„h Derek Shaw has been involved in representing the community for much of the last twenty years. He has been a member of conservation-focused bodies, including the Nelson Conservation Board from 1990-1998 and has also been a Councillor at both regional and district levels. He is currently a Councillor on the Nelson City Council and chairperson of the Environment and Planning Committee.
„h Denis Nugent is a consultant planner, in private practice, based in Auckland. He is a member of the New Zealand Planning Institute and has acted as an expert witness. He is a past director of the Environmental Defence Society, a group which is active in providing legal assistance to community groups involved in Environment Court cases.
„h Dr Jo Rosier is a Senior Lecturer in the Resource and Environmental Planning Programme at Massey University. She is trained as a planner and has published extensively on planning related matters. She is involved in two community groups as secretary of the Waitohu Stream Care Group and chair of Pit Park People in Palmerston North. Her research and teaching focuses on planning for people's activities in ecologically sensitive areas.
„h Adrian More practices as a barrister in Dunedin, where his extensive practice deals mainly with resource management law and civil litigation. In his early law career he was a solicitor and then partner in the Timaru firm of Petrie Mayman Timpany & More, later to become Timpany Walton. In addition to his court experience he has developed his interest in arbitration and mediation, becoming a Fellow of the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand.

Ends

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