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Carter's Intervention "Troubling"

Carter's Intervention "Troubling"

The Locke Foundation today said the recent intervention by Enviroment minister Chris Carter to overrule the Enviroment Court should send loud warning signals to the nation.

On the 7th of March it became known that after the Whangamata Marina Society had gone through the entire process of gaining approval from the Environment Court to build a marina in the Whangamata Harbour, Mr Carter announced that the Court had made a mistaken judgement, and denied consent for the project. Locke foundation spokesperson Madeleine Flannagan said today that regardless of what anyone thinks of the merits of the marina, Mr Carter's actions raise serious concerns over judicial processes.

"The reason that we have courts in general and the enviroment court in particular is so that these decisions don't just get made by one person with an opinion. Like any court, the enviroment court is a forum where all the relevant evidence can be waded through so that a decision can be made via a judicious process. Just imagine if a Member of parliament could intervene and overule the decisions of judges in criminal cases, or any other case for that matter. Some people call it separation of powers, but whatever you call it, the judicial process is supposed to be protected from this type of political meddling."

Mrs Flannagan said that the role of the minister was hopelessly in consent approvals was so unclear as to be either redundant or dangerous. "Either we have a situation where the minister simply certifies and rubber stamps the end result of the court process, in which case he would be somewhat redundant, or else regardless of the findings and decisions of the court, the minister can ignore what it says and enforce whatever decision he personally likes, which is dangerous." Mrs Flannagan added, "Courts are a politically neutral arbiter whether on enviromental matters or any other, and for a member of parliament to literally have the solitary power to overrule a court and impose his will has more in common with a medieval monarchy than a liberal democracy like New Zealand."

The Locke Foundation called on the government to clarify exactly what the role of the minister is, and exactly why the court process is necessary if the minister has no obligation to respect its decision.

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