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RMA: National Party divisions emerge

RMA: National Party divisions emerge

National's extreme RMA policies designed to cut local communities out of important resource management decisions are clearly a step too far for even its own members says Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope.

Last week National Party leader Don Brash claimed he would scrap support for community groups in environmental matters because there was 'too much decision-making' in the hands of local communities and their councils.

In Parliament today Mr Benson-Pope revealed that National Party Christchurch East candidate David Round was a leading figure within an environmental protection society given nearly $30,000 last year from the Environmental legal aid fund.

Mr Round's Port Levy Environmental Protection Society received $29,565 to help it participate in an Environment Court appeal over a marine farm development – concerned about the adverse effects on the coastal environment and it's visual and ecological impact on outstanding landscapes.

Mr Benson-Pope says Don Brash has tried to paint a picture of people benefiting from the Environmental Legal Aid fund as fringe and extremist.

"They are nothing of the kind," said Mr Benson-Pope. "They are just like other New Zealanders, deeply concerned about their communities and the environment. "That a prominent National Party candidate has been helped by the fund to get involved in environmental decision-making should be ringing alarm bells with Dr Brash that he has got another policy completely wrong."

Mr Benson-Pope also pointed to National voter Carol-Lesley Cotter, chairwoman of the Waiuku Windfarm Information Group, who the New Zealand Herald reported received $33,750 from the fund to help its "well in excess of $100,000" Environment Court fight against a windfarm proposed by Genesis for the area.

Ms Cotter was reported saying: "It [the ELA fund] gives people who don't have the ability to defend things somewhere to go other than just relying on donations." And, abolishing it would be "taking something away from communities."

"The RMA is about striking the right balance between using our environment and protecting it for future generations," said Mr Benson-Pope. "Unlike National, we will not be watering down the RMA's ability to protect the environment or sacrificing local decision-making and public participation."

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