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Less say on a power station than a garage

Less say on a power station than a garage

Large projects will receive less scrutiny under the new “fast - track” processes which have survived the significant redrafting of the Resource Management Amendment Bill.

“It’s a double standard. You would have a fairer and more robust process if your neighbour wanted to build a garage on your boundary than if they wanted to build a coal fired power station,” Forest and Bird’s Conservation Manager, Kevin Hackwell said today.

Large projects with massive social and environmental impacts can be fast-tracked through two new, alternative “call-in” processes, both of which no longer have a right of appeal.

One is a call-in to a Board of Inquiry and the other is a call-in to the Environment Court.

“We are surprised that there is no guidance given for deciding under which circumstances the different processes should be used,” Mr Hackwell said.

“While the call-in to the Environment Court at least allows for pre-hearing mediation, neither is as good as the existing process.

“Both new processes would struggle to deal with the 2000 submissions which have been received for the proposed Marsden B coal-fired power station. The existing two-tiered process “filters” the submissions and issues at the Inquiry tier. This means that only a fraction of the submitters and key issues ever go on to an Environment Court appeal,” Mr Hackwell said.

There are also two alternative processes for establishing National Policy Statements. One is the existing process which provides for comprehensive and robust community input, the other is a new “fast-track” process which has little community involvement, and few checks and balances.

“This new process will lead to very “political” National Policy Statements which will flip-flop as governments change and lead to constant uncertainty. Again there is no guidance given for deciding which process should be chosen.”

“Unfortunately, when it comes to setting National Environment Standards the Bill is still designed to protect developers rather than communities or the environment. The standards will now set maximums so that local communities will find it almost impossible to give higher protection to any special features of their environment.”

“Some aspects of the redrafted bill are definitely improvements on what was originally proposed,” Mr Hackwell said.

“Many of the unprecedented new Ministerial powers to override local decision making have been moderated. The costly proposal to limit appeals to the Environment Court to evidence presented at the original council hearing has gone, as has the proposal that would have stopped cross submissions on plans and policies.”

“The draconian proposals to allow councils to strike out submitters or their evidence is still there but have been moderated by allowing a right for the submitter to appeal such a decision to the Environment Court.”


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