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Waitaki changes don't get Govt off the hook

1 June 2004

Waitaki changes don't get Govt off the hook on rivers

Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says the Government's decision to proceed with the Waitaki Bill does not let it off the hook on developing proper planning processes for all New Zealand rivers.

"The changes to the Bill announced by the Government following the cancellation of Aqua are substantial and should be referred back to the Local Government and Environment Select Committee," said Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Environment Spokesperson.

"In particular we are concerned that it appears that much of the Committee's work ensuring recognition of in-stream and amenity values may be deleted. We will be looking closely at the drafting.

"The Committee listened to extensive public feedback on the original Bill so would be able to scrutinise the changes without needing another full submission process.

"A return to the Select Committee would allow MPs of different political persuasions to continue to pool their ideas and reach a consensus, whereas the House in Committee would not be a constructive or cooperative forum to assess the Government's post-Aqua amendments.

"But regardless of how this rewritten-again Bill proceeds from here, the Government should make an immediate commitment to develop some good planning tools for all catchments. The Greens have already said our preference is a National Policy Statement on freshwater to guide regional plans under the RMA. Failing that, integrated catchment planning for rivers needs to be assured throughout the country.

"We supported this Bill when it was reported back to the House in March because it was the only way to quickly resolve the lack of a Waitaki water plan in the face of the immediate threat from Project Aqua.

"Once that monster was slain, we stated our preference that this somewhat ad hoc solution be set aside in favour of a concerted nationwide effort to improve planning for all New Zealand rivers, because while the Waitaki is still at risk from excessive demands on its water, it is now no less threatened than many other rivers around the country," said Ms Fitzsimons.


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