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Government leaving Kiwis and environment out in the cold

Government leaving ordinary New Zealanders and environment out in the cold

The Government is making it harder for ordinary New Zealanders to protect the places they care about, the Green Party said today.

“The Environment Minister told officials that she didn’t want Aucklanders to be able to access environmental legal aid for the Auckland Unitary Plan process to try and protect the places they care about,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“We need a level playing field so that we get the best outcomes for communities and the environment.

“The Government has consistently weakened our environmental law, suppressed dissenting voices and now is withholding funding for people trying to have their say effectively.

“Environmental legal aid means decision makers are better informed and helps protect the places we care about.

“Community and environmental organisations standing up to protect the places they care about have everything stacked against them. Now the Environment Minister is preventing them accessing the Environment Legal Assistance (ELA) Fund to participate in the hearings on the Auckland Unitary Plan.

“The Government has suppressed the Department of Conservation, which is supposed to be able to stand up for nature, from participating fully in cases like the Ruataniwha Dam. This leaves ordinary New Zealanders and local communities to hold the line when it comes to speaking out on the issues and places we care about.

“In the Board of Inquiry process for Trans Tasman’s seabed mining proposals, community and environmental organisations have also been denied access to the ELA Fund, which the Ministry for the Environment administers.

“It’s a David and Goliath battle where ordinary New Zealanders with limited access to funding for expert witnesses and lawyers are pitched against major corporations.

“Crucial decisions are being made about the future of our oceans and our biggest city. It is better for everyone when decision makers have all the information they need.

“Government should be increasing the $800,000 ELA Fund, that has remained stagnant since 2011, so that more organisations can use it to present evidence on major exploitation proposals such as seabed mining and significant plans such as Auckland’s Unitary Plan,” said Ms Sage.

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