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Nats will stop you having your say

25 July 2005

Nats will stop you having your say

National's proposals for the Resource Management Act are designed to help big developers ride roughshod over communities and degrade environmental quality, Green Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says.

"National will shut you out of the process unless you can show you are 'directly affected', which is usually interpreted in law as meaning your property is financially affected. People who don't live right beside a river will have no say in how polluted that river should be," Ms Fitzsimons, the Green Party's Environment Spokesperson, says.

"The policy's very first sentence shows National's agenda: they want to clear the way for big new motorways that are opposed by local communities, rather than better public transport. They want to speed up the building of pylons and large power stations, instead of energy efficiency improvements and small-scale renewable energy. It is a recipe for unsustainability and will take New Zealand back to the fifties.

"They propose to prohibit any community from having better quality water and air than the worst that exists anywhere in the country. At present, government can set national environmental standards that are a bottom line that every council must meet. Now National proposes that if a community presently has high water and air quality, it cannot protect it by setting a higher local standard and will be unable to stop them being polluted down to the minimum standard.

"Local groups will be further disadvantaged with the abolition of environmental legal aid, introduced by the Green Party in 2000. It is designed to ensure that the Environment Court has all the relevant data on the table when it makes a decision. Sometimes some of this information is held by local organisations who can't afford to take part in the case. It has enabled several groups to protect their local environment and community from inappropriate development.

"What is more, National can't even get the numbers right. The annual budget for environmental legal aid is less than $1 million, not $3.4 million as National claims. Don Brash won't get much of a tax cut out of cutting that.

"Clearly, only one culture will be recognised by a Brash Government: deleting all references to the Treaty will establish that resource management rules will exclude any consideration of matters of cultural importance to Maori. They will be expected to become brown Pakeha, as invisible to the law as they are to Dr Brash.

"Despite these draconian proposals, National's system would lead to worse delays in the Environment Court. At present less than 3 percent of applications ever go to the Environment Court and they all have reasonably rapid hearings because many of the issues have been sorted out and agreed upon at the council hearing. National's changes would see large proposals take months in the Environment Court as every little detail, much of it not contentious, would have to be dealt with there. If it is speed they want, they are shooting themselves in the foot," Ms Fitzsimons says.


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