Flavell: Resource Mangmt (Security for Costs) Bill
Resource Management (Security for Costs) Amendment Bill
Te Ururoa Flavell, Maori Party Spokesperson for Environment
Wednesday 14 June 2006
The Maori Party is speaking to the Resource Management (Security for Costs) Amendment Bill informed by our understanding of CIR.
That’s not CIR for Citizen Initiated Referendum - although that certainly would not be such a bad idea.
It’s CIR for Cultural Impact Reporting - as defined under the fourth schedule of the Resource Management Act 1991.
In this section, the requirements for assessing environmental effects are set out. Cultural Impact Reporting looks at the spiritual or cultural or other special values for present or future generations.
What the Resource Management (Security for Costs) Amendment Bill
does in effect, is to add a new layer of costs to an already expensive process - the process of taking a case against a company.
The Bill will require that claimants can sign that they are able to put up the money before the case can go to Court.
And it’s not small change.
The cultural impact assessment of this new provision then, is that if we are seriously committed to due process, to ensure all people receive a fair hearing in front of the law, then this Bill does nothing to enhance that right.
The Resource Management Act 1991 states that " the relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu and other taonga" is a matter of national importance which councils must recognise and provide for.
A matter of national importance - which with this amendment Bill would never see the light of day through prohibitive costs.
It is a matter of national importance, a matter of natural justice, and a matter of environmental equity that demands we oppose this Bill.
There are two other factors that have emerged through our cultural impact assessment of this Bill.
Firslty, the issue of irrelevance.
The purpose of the Bill is to “limit the vexatious and frivolous objections to applications for development”.
Yet in a search of the environmental rulings between 1998 to 2003, we have unearthed two, and only two, instances which one could define as either vexatious and frivolous.
This can’t be right, we thought, so we approached the Ministry for the Environment.
We were told, quite clearly, that they have not undertaken any assessment, let alone a cultural impact assessment, of how many cases could fall into the vexatious and frivolous category. Their response was that, at its best, estimates could only be anecdotal.
The issue of relevance being discounted, we thus turn to the issue of necessity.
And what we found was that the RMA Amendment Act 2005, actually, makes this new Bill redundant.
There is a clause in the RMA Amendment Act which will prevent such cases getting to Court by the direct intervention of local bodies. This will come into force in August 2007.
Section 41C of the principal Act is amended by the addition of specific subsections, including the new section 41C (5) which direct that a submission can be struck out if the submission or part of it is frivolous or vexatious.
The costs of litigation are already adversely impacting upon a group of people who are already over-represented amongst communities where poverty is endemic.
‘Security for costs’ can be understood as yet another clever construct of the Crown to constrain tangata whenua from their right to challenge developments.
Sitting alongside other local government situations where Maori are being prevented from doing their own developments, it is at the very least a case of dé jà vu, or worse yet, another instance of racism.
Putting it another way, we wonder if the mere presentation of the Resource Management (Security for Costs) Amendment Bill is actually the real legislation that is both frivolous and vexatious.
The Maori Party will not be supporting this Bill.