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Dr Cullen's speechwriter out to lunch?

15 July 2004 - Wellington

Dr Cullen's speechwriter out to lunch?

Claims by Treasurer Dr Michael Cullen this morning that resource consents take "an average period of five to six years" to process have been contradicted by statistics on the Ministry for the Environment's website and promoted by RMA Minister David Benson-Pope.

Forest and Bird has written to Dr Cullen pointing this out to him.

Dr Cullen today justified amending the Resource Management Act on the basis that: "An average period of five to six years to secure resource consent is, I would argue, not conscionable and certainly not necessary for the preservation of democratic rights and processes".

"Dr Cullen was at breakfast, but his speech writer was clearly out to lunch," Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell said today. "An average period of 5-6 years to secure a resource consent would be unacceptable, if it were true, but it is not."

"It is time politicians seeking to amend the Resource Management Act put some credible information forward justifying their proposed changes," he said.

"According to the Ministry for the Environment's website, 82% of all resource consents processed in 2001/02, were processed within statutory time limits (i.e., the standard timeframes set in the RMA). Of publicly notified consents 69% were processed within statutory time limits. None of those consents could have taken 5-6 years to process," he said.

The website also revealed that, of the 49,000 resource consents processed in the 2001/02 year: * 41,000 were minor and dealt with by a council officer. * 46,000 consents were processed without public notification. * Fewer than 900 resource consents were appealed to the Environment Court. * Fewer than 300 were declined. "Last year, Government officials sought information on the time it took major projects, such as prisons, to gain consent. They found that it took an average time of two years for a major project to get consent. The shortest time was 15 months and the longest time was 39 months. The greatest time was taken up at the Environment Court and the Government has now addressed this problem," Mr Hackwell said.

"Both Michael Cullen and Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton regularly tell the country we've never had it so good. In the introduction to this morning's speech Dr Cullen said that 'the New Zealand economy is routinely out-performing forecasts.' The evidence indicates that the Resource Management Act is not holding back the economy," Mr Hackwell said.

"At a consultation meeting with officials a few weeks ago, we asked for evidence of the need for changes and they had none to offer," he said.

"Last week, National's Environment Spokesperson Nick Smith said that the RMA needed to be changed to allow Transpower to upgrade the grid in the northern South Island. This was flatly refuted by Transpower the next day," he said.

"Overall, we are extremely disappointed with the quality of the arguments put forward by those who want to weaken the RMA," he said.


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