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Cash for consent deals on Project Aqua

Gerry Brownlee National Energy Spokesperson

16 October 2003

Cash for consent deals on Project Aqua

The Government's confirmation today that Meridian Energy is paying cash for consent deals over Project Aqua, is its most glaring admission that the Resource Management Act (RMA) is seriously flawed and needs a dramatic overhaul, says National Energy and Local Government Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee.

"Facing the prospect of getting more than 300 individual resource consents, state-owned Meridian is approaching parties its own experts identify as being affected. It's offering them initial cash solatium payments, which by nature are made without prejudice, and to pick up any cost of independent legal advice, with the promise of more cash if affected parties sign away their right to object to the project.

"The Minister of State Owned Enterprises in Parliament today justified Meridian Energy spending in excess of *$50m in a cash for consent deal with parties affected by construction of Project Aqua.

"This is a flagrant use of the taxpayers' chequebook by an SOE to buy its way through the flawed process of the RMA. The Minister's bumbling and incompetent justification of these deals shows how far this Government will go to avoid the problems of the RMA, rather than try to solve them.

"The message this Government is sending to anyone affected by a development, is to forget about their environmental concerns, and concentrate on how much they can get in their back pocket. That defeats the original purpose of the Act and promotes the wrong results.

"The Government has been caught out and can't justify these cash payments, using taxpayers' money, for the wrong reasons," Mr Brownlee said.

* the figure of $50m was given to the Commerce Select Committee Inquiry earlier today by Meridian chief executive Keith Turner

Ends

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