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DOC And Minister Out Of Control

DOC And Minister Out Of Control

Tuesday 30 Sep 2003 Ken Shirley Press Releases -- Environment & Conservation

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader and Conservation Spokesman Ken Shirley today labelled the Department of Conservation New Zealand's most litigious entity, and accused it of abusing the RMA process.

"Ratepayers throughout the country are being forced to combat an onslaught of DOC objections and appeals to their District Plans, which are tying up Council staff and consuming vast sums in endless litigation," Mr Shirley said.

"The Councils often cannot afford to match DOC's deep pockets, and reluctantly buckle under its pressure. This seems to be a deliberate strategy to expand the DOC empire.

"While key conservation values should be drawn to Councils' attention when they formulate their plans, the RMA has devolved decision-making to local government - a department of the State should not abuse its powers and jackboot through its own narrow agenda.

"DOC should advocate in respect of the public conservation estate over which it has stewardship, but it should be very cautious when using its extensive powers to advocate for conservation values on non-stewardship land or private property.

"There are a number of organisations which can, and do, advocate strongly for conservation values. It is wrong for a State department with a vested interest to undertake this function.

"I am particularly dismayed and shocked by the lack of transparency and accountability that the Minister seems to encourage within DOC. For example, I recently asked the Minister, by way of written Parliamentary Questions:

`How many primary submissions and cross submissions has the Department of Conservation made to the proposed District and Regional Plans of each local body in New Zealand for each of the past five years.'

"The Minister's reply read:

`The information requested by the member is not readily available. I do not consider that the expense of answering the question can be justified.'

"I then asked:

`What is the expenditure of the Department of Conservation including staff time and consultancy contracts associated with submission to District Plans and appeals to the Environment Court for each of the past five years', and received the same blank answer.

"With regard to the Far North District Council, I asked the Minister:

`How many primary submissions and cross submissions has the Department made in respect of the Far North District Council's proposed district plan.' The answer was one primary submission and one further submission.

"I then asked:

`Has the Department of Conservation appealed any decisions of the Far North District Council on its proposed district plan if so, how many. The answer: "Decisions made by the Council on 79 elements of the Department's submission and/or further submissions have been appealed.'

"This is a pattern throughout the country. Because the Minister will not supply this information, I have written to every local body in New Zealand, asking them the extent to which the Department of Conservation has imposed costs on them through the planning process," Mr Shirley said.

ENDS


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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