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Environmental Legal Aid Shows Anti-Business Agenda

Environmental Legal Aid Shows Anti-Business Agenda

Thursday 21st Dec 2000 Gerry Eckhoff Media Release -- Environment

The Government’s announcement of legal aid to help environmental groups oppose resource consents in the environment court is yet another body blow to economic progress in New Zealand, said ACT Agriculture spokesman Gerry Eckhoff.

Under the environmental legal aid scheme announced by Environment Minister, Marian Hobbs, up to $20,000 will be given to environmental groups to contest resource consents.

“This government is hell bent on depriving individuals of the right to develop business on their own land. This latest attack on those working to grow the economy clearly illustrates this government’s anti-business dogma, regardless of the Prime Minister’s rhetoric.

“It is an outrage that the government has decided to fund extreme left wing ideologues with taxpayer money. If the government had thought this issue through, instead of trying to buy votes, they would have discovered the playing field is already tilted heavily in favour of protest groups.

“Currently a group can make a spurious resource consent claim and literally hold up the proposed development for years (all at the developers expense). Organisers behind a proposal for a new Whangarei port have already spent $6.5 million gaining resource consents, as protestors submit pro forma objections to every proposal they submit.

“While in opposition Conservation Minister Sandra Lee had a private members bill debated in the House to grant legal aid to environmental groups and remove the ability of the Courts to award costs against such groups. Luckily, common-sense prevailed and the bill was defeated. Yet Marian Hobbs has picked up Sandra’s baton and is sprinting for the line.

“Both Sandra Lees’ private members bill and Marian Hobbs’ announcement are granting environmental groups a privileged status within our democracy, with absolutely no accountability to anyone. What is the difference between a disaffected rate payer group upset with their local council and a grizzling environmental group? Why should one attract special funding and not the other?

“This legal aid scheme will blow out as environmental lobby groups jockey to be the most anti-development. Marian Hobbs’ is encouraging vexatious, time wasting and anti-business objections,” said Gerry Eckhoff.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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