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Environmental Legal Aid Funding Welcomed

Media Release , Wellington , Thursday , 20 December 2000

For Immediate Release

ENVIRONMENTAL LEGAL AID FUNDING WELCOMED

The national environment coalition ECO today welcomed the announcement of a $2.3 million funding package for environmental initiatives.

Details of the package released in a joint statement by Environment Minister Marion Hobbs and Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons, confirm funding will be made available for environmental legal aid, environment centres, a pesticide reduction strategy and national environmental accounting.

Funding will be available to non-profit environmental groups to take cases under the Resource Management Act to the Environment Court. Funding will also be available for resource management advisory services and information and for environment centres, with promises of funding out to 2002/03.

ECO chairperson Stephen Blyth said the funding for legal representation, research and experts for cases in the Environment Court will help ensure that case law develops around the environmental aspects of the Resource Management Act.

"For too long, environmental groups have been effectively cut out of resource management decisions due to the high costs of taking part. There is mounting evidence that resource management issues are determined by those who have got the money to fight it out in Court”, he said.

“Recent academic work at Victoria University shows that having more experts than your opponents makes a huge difference to your chances of success. Environmental groups have rarely had any."

ECO has actively promoted the need for funding for public participation. Mr Blyth said the group congratulates the Greens for this initiative and is pleased the Government has endorsed the scheme and extended it to 2002/03.

"The fund is a first step towards addressing the barriers to effective public input into environmental decision-making."

Mr Blyth says ECO would now like to see the Government secure funding for public participation through amendments to the Legal Services Act and for actions under the Fisheries Act and other environmental statutes.

“Good environmental decision making depends on the ability of all members of the community to use formal processes. Funding needs to be available to ensure the public can take part in all decisions about the environment – not just resource management issues”, he said.

ECO also welcomes the announcement that the Government has approved the Greens’ budget package for environment centre funding. This will provide local communities with an important contact point for environmental issues.

ENDS For more information contact:

Stephen Blyth (04) 383 5727 or (04) 494 0580 Cath Wallace (04) 389 1696(h) or (04) 463 5713(w)

ECO website: www.converge.org.nz/eco


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