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Justice not blind, it comes in designer sunglasses

2 June, 2004

Justice not blind, it comes in designer sunglasses

Justice will be the privilege of the wealthy rather than a right for all New Zealanders following the proposed fee hikes in the Environmental Court, Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said today.

Ms Fitzsimons said that Government moves to charge up to $440 for a hearing fee (currently free) and to increase the fee for filing an appeal from $55 to $245 in the Environmental Court would effectively stack the court process in favour of those with money while discouraging ordinary New Zealanders from participating.

"Justice has always been more available to those with deep pockets who can have the best lawyers and expert witnesses," said Ms Fitzsimons. "Developers and industrialists up and down New Zealand must be toasting the Government today for effectively silencing a voice for the environment.

"$245 is less than pocket money to developers but more than half a weeks wage for many New Zealanders.

"The introduction of these charges would deny justice to the many New Zealanders who could no longer afford to participate in their right to challenge unsustainable and environmentally-damaging development.

"Community groups and individuals trying to protect their local areas from environmentally-damning proposals will have to hold even more cake stalls to earn the right to participate. Environmental legal aid gives them only a pittance towards the costs of mounting even a minimal case.

"The Resource Management Act depends on good evidence being brought by people who know their local environment and their community. This move will make it even more a 'trial by expert evidence' and disadvantage the community even further," said Ms Fitzsimons.

ENDS

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