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Waitaki Fast Track Opposed

Friday, February 27, 2004 - Wellington
MEDIA RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

Waitaki fast track opposed

Forest and Bird today made clear its opposition to the Government's Waitaki catchment fast track legislation and Project Aqua at a hearing in Parliament today.

"Experience has shown that fast track legislation inevitably leads to poor decisions with the community shut out of the process and bad environmental outcomes," said Forest and Bird senior researcher Barry Weeber.

The Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill removes rights of appeal to the Environment Court on the water allocation plan for the Waitaki River.

Mr Weeber told Parliament's Local Government and Environment Select Committee that the removal of appeal rights would make the process more expensive, more complex and open to mistakes. "The proposed process increases the chance of the need for future amending legislation."

He said that it was strange that the Government was not making water plans compulsory or allowing the Minister to call-in "requirements" and "designations". The current law allows profit driven private companies and state owned enterprises to make decisions on their own consent applications instead of democratically elected councils or Ministers.

Mr Weeber said that Meridian Energy has controversially been given requiring authority powers in the Waitaki catchment.

Water plans are currently voluntary under the Resource Management Act and Environment Canterbury has failed to deliver a water plan, precipitating the Government's legislation.

"The Government should have put resources into preparing national standards for water quality and quantity, rather than progressing with this flawed legislation," Mr Weeber said.

Notes:

Forest and Bird's original submission and supplementary submission available on request.

The Minister for the Environment has used her call-in powers under the Resource Management Act to replace local authority consideration of Project Aqua and irrigation water applications for the Waitaki River.

Meridian Energy was given requiring authority status by the Minister for the Environment in 2003. This power enables the authority to become the decision maker under the RMA and replace Council decisions with their own decisions. This designating power means that they can also take action to compulsorily purchase land.


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