Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 17 November 2006 - 17 November 2006

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

World Cup Anniversary

Exactly one year ago today, New Zealand won the right to host Rugby World Cup 2011. Twelve months later the nation is consumed by the debate about where, how, and to what cost we will provide a stadium venue suitable to host the 2011 final. And appalled that we could find ourselves in such a position at this late stage.

Questions should, and will be asked, about how we arrived in such a predicament. But that is not the immediate task. The time for finger-pointing is later. Right now, the priority must be the imposition of an orderly decision-making process in place of the chaos; facts in place of the many fictions. The rugby chieftans at Dublin’s IRB headquarters are not, from all accounts, spooked yet. But their patience will not be endless. A critical week in New Zealand hosting of the Rugby World Cup looms ahead.

Up the Monarchy

Helen Clark continues to suffer from the affliction that brought so much trouble over the pledge card affair: An inability to distinguish between public property, and that of the Labour Party. Last week’s ceremony to unveil the Armistice Day memorial in London was a classic. In earlier times, such events were treated as occasions for bi-partisanship. But having grudgingly invited Dr Brash to the London event, Clark’s people ensured he was carefully away from the official action.

Neither did the best turnout of royals for a New Zealand event in many decades (the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne) deter our anti-monarchist leaders from having a cheap shot. The lefty-muso Dave Dobbyn, noted for his adherence to the Clark cause, was engaged for the event. And from the dozens of songs he could have selected for the event, Dobbin sang "Welcome Home". Noted, of course, for the line "the empire is fading by the day." How very very classy.

Questions Over Whangamata

The High Court finding that Conservation Minister Chris Carter exceeded his Ministerial powers by cutting across the work of the Environment Court in the Whangamata Marina case saw taxpayers pick up a bill for $98,000 in costs this week, courtesy of High Court Justice Fogarty. Enough, you would think to deter any further Ministerial silliness over the affair. But apparently not.

With Carter in Ministerial disgrace, the Whangamata issue was handed over to the Environment Minister David Benson-Pope. And the prospects of good Ministerial conduct do not look good. The powers of the Minister in such matters are, as Carter discovered, tightly constrained. Ministers cannot ignore findings of the Environment Court on matters of fact, or re-visit decisions as to the credibility of the evidence. That is where Carter came unstuck.

The decision of Justice Fogarty outlined the appropriate procedure where a Minister has doubts about matters determined by the Environment Court. Ministers should not undertake a series of meetings to re-visit matters of evidence, as Carter did. Ministers should file written questions for the Court to answer.

Having been judicially scalded over Whangamata already, the expectation was that Benson-Pope would now follow the traditional process and simply tick the Environment Court decision - a decision it took many many months to hear. But that is not how this Government works. As the deadline for a Ministerial decision loomed, Benson-Pope filed a series of questions in the Environment Court and now awaits an answer.

The questions filed by the Minister are, apparently, not available to members of the public from the Court file. So much for transparency in our Justice system. The Carter veto was a blatant attempt to favour local iwi and the surfers lobby. And, from information coming to hand at the worldwide headquarters of, it appears that Benson-Pope’s questions to the Court target the same areas. Is it just possible, perhaps, that having shoved the timetable back by a crucial few weeks into the Christmas season, that a second Minister is having a crack at thwarting the decision of the Environment Court? And, of course, exposing taxpayers to another hefty dose of Court costs as the matter goes back for another High Court review?

Conservation Hypocrisy

The errant Mr Carter, Minister of Conservation was back in action this week mailing out to all and sundry copies of an expensive glossy booklet. Produced by the Conservation Authority and the Department of Conservation (DOC), the booklet was called "Department of Conservation Statutory Planning Processes." It’s purpose, according to Carter’s covering letter, was "to encourage the general public to get involved in the statutory planning processes of the Department of Conservation”.

Would these, perchance, be the planning processes of the same Department of Conservation that were recently reviewed by our old friend, the Controller and Auditor-General?

The one third of New Zealand that constitutes our conservation estate, according to the booklet so helpfully circulated by the Minister this week, is administered under the auspices of the Conservation Act 1987 and the National Parks Act 1980.

Would this be the same Conservation Act 1987 referred to in the Auditor- General’s report of a few months ago? The Act that requires the Department of Conservation to complete Conservation management strategies in each conservancy within statutory time frames? The statutory time frames that DOC has routinely ignored and is now in breach of it’s own legislation in 6 of 13 conservancies?

And would this be the same National Parks Act 1980 referred to in the Auditor- General’s report, requiring DOC to have National Park Management plans in place in respect of each National Park. The Act that DOC is now in breach of in 8 of 14 National Parks?

Mr Carter and his officials would be better employed putting their available resources into some form of attempt to comply with their statutory obligations, rather than wasting them on a pointless glossy invitation to participate in a statutory process that clearly isn’t taking place.


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