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ACT Opposes Environment Re-Appointment

ACT New Zealand does not support the Parliamentary Notice of Motion to reappoint Dr Morgan Williams to the role of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, ACT Deputy Leader Ken Shirley told the House last night.

"Our opposition to the Motion was not a reflection on Dr Williams personal competence or integrity but rather a clear statement that the office of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment is redundant and should be expunged.

"This position was created by the 1986 Environment Act and was redundant at birth.

"I well remember the lobby in 1986 to create a statutory Environmental Protection Agency. The office of Parliamentary Commissioner was adopted as a compromise and trade off to appease the green movement. Like most compromises and trade offs it has been very ineffective.

"The role of Parliamentary Commissioner may have been justified and worthwhile in the 1970s and early 1980s as a watchdog at a time when the Executive Wing of Government was the main agent for adverse environmental impact.

"In those days the Government built the hydro dams, ran commercial forestry together with the coal mines and the railways. Most constructions were undertaken by the Ministry of Works, which operated under a National Development Act to fast-track planning consents.

"The reforms of the late 1980s and the introduction of the Resource Management Act in 1993 completely removed any justification for a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and yet this office drifts along consuming precious resources and contributing very little. The two major investigations undertaken by the Parliamentary Commissioner in the last year were `Beyond Aging Pipes: Urban water system issue for the 21st Century' and `Weaving Resilience into our working lands: Future roles for native plants on private land'. While these issues may well have environmental relevance they are all addressed ad nauseam by existing organisations, which often overlap and duplicate effort.

"The public resources that sustain the office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment could be far better deployed elsewhere to ensure improve environmental outcomes" concluded Ken Shirley.


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