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Environmental Legal Aid

Federated Farmers will be looking for the Government to be even-handed in allocating its just announced Environmental Legal Aid package.

Federated Farmers environment spokesperson, John Aspinall said, "We expect that non-profit farmer groups such as Landcare Groups or Federated Farmers branches will have equal access to the fund when pursuing environmental initiatives in their regions".

"Farmer groups are seeking a fair deal, and are beginning to ask if this Government believes only environmentalists, iwi, and hapu should be given funding."

"An amendment to the RMA that would have required local councils to consult with affected landowners was defeated at the first stage. Yet other New Zealanders are going to be subsided to allow them to have their views heard."

Farmers are forced to erode their financial assets when defending new regulations that not only threaten their businesses' existence, but also achieve very little for the environment.

"Increased use of the already overloaded Environment Court will in fact decrease public participation and increasingly place environmental issues in the hands of lawyers, and do little to resolve matters in a non-adversarial way."

Federated Farmers would much rather see an emphasis on consultation and mediation, with the Court as a last resort. "Many issues can be resolved with a little consultation and compromise. However, taxpayer funding will enable parties to go to Court at taxpayer expense, with little or no attempt at compromise," Mr Aspinall said.

Mr Aspinall said that Ms Fitzsimons' view that individuals and the community protecting the environment "... should not be expected to do this work with no resources" was a double standard. "The Government have provided very limited resources to assist landowners with the massive costs of managing biodiversity, landscapes and recreation opportunities in the public good," Mr Aspinall concluded.

The second major aspect of the Government's announcement - the provision of advisory, information and education services - is supported by the federation, provided that farmer groups also have access to the grants.

END


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