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Labour’s pot call’s National’s kettle black

Labour’s pot call’s National’s kettle black

Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope is being urged to withdraw his proposed amendments to the Resource Management Act after delivering a spirited defence of the Act and public participation while criticising National’s proposals to faster track infrastructure and undermine public participation.

“The Minister’s criticism of National’s proposals is deeply ironic given the Government’s efforts to do exactly the same thing,” said Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.

“We are pleased David Benson-Pope has now seen the light and we hope he will withdraw his proposals that will give the Government the ability to fast track its favoured infrastructure projects and to restrict public participation and appeal rights,” he said.

“There is currently very little distinguishing National from Labour when it comes to changing the Resource Management Act. David Benson-Pope’s unworkable amendments are as insidious as those being suggested by National – just ask the people who live in the path of the proposed Waikato transmission lines,” he said.

“Forest and Bird is analysing all the submissions on the Resource Management and Electricity Amendment Bill and it is becoming increasingly clear that hardly anyone thinks they will work,” he said.

Quotes from David Benson-Pope’s media release

“Mr Brash is out of touch with what has happened in New Zealand in the past few years,” said Mr Benson-Pope. “He wants to shut local communities out of the very decisions that will affect the lives of those communities.”

“New Zealanders value the environment and understand the need to balance the demands of the economy with people’s expectations to live in and enjoy our spaces.”

David Benson-Pope in the NZ Herald 16 09 2004

Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope said he expected applicants seeking to call in decisions would include state-owned enterprises with big projects to advance.

Asked if local environmental concerns might have to give way to the national interest, he said: "It is not inconceivable that in major nationwide infrastructural projects, the national interest might be the predominant factor."

New powers for the Government to force infrastructure onto unwilling communities in the Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill

• New call-in process for major projects (clause 54) that the Government likes (or doesn’t like), and which has no Environment Court Appeal right. The Government could use this process to ram through projects over the top of public opposition.

• New process for national policy statements (clause 24) that enables the Minister to bypass the current process in favour of any process the Minister likes. The Minister could use this to develop ‘quick and nasty’ policy statements to promote infrastructure

• Default ‘absolute’ National Environmental Standards (clause 21) this will allow the Minister for the Environment to prevent local authorities from setting stricter standards than the government for infrastructure proposals.

• New power to instruct local authorities to take any action (clause 6). in relation to their functions within a timeframe determined by the Minister. This clause will enable the Minister to instruct local authorities to smooth the way for infrastructure developments. If the local authority does not carry out the Minister’s instruction within the time set by the Minister, the Minister can appoint an official to take over the local authority’s functions.

• New power to direct changes to resource management plans. (clause 7) This clause will enable the Minister to require local authorities to change their district or regional plans to make provision for infrastructure projects in their area.

• New power for the Minister to declare classes of activity permitted (clause 20) irrespective of environmental effects. This proposal could be used to make certain kinds of infrastructure, such as cellphone towers, a permitted activity.

There are further proposals to restrict public participation in the resource consent process including unappealable powers for local authorities to limit the presentation of submissions by members of the public and even eject submitters from the process entirely.

© Scoop Media

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