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Greens welcome landmark RMA court ruling

31 October 2007

Greens welcome landmark RMA court ruling

The Court of Appeal decision released today in favour of the Coromandel Watchdog group is a landmark victory for local communities, says Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

Coromandel Watchdog was appealing decisions made by the Environment Court and the High Court that would prevent councils from using the 'prohibited activity' status in the Resource Management Act over large areas of their jurisdiction. This particular case was about whether Thames Coromandel District council could make mining a prohibited activity on conservation and coastal land. The two previous decisions had ruled they couldn't; now, the Court of Appeal has ruled that they can.

"This ruling has far wider implications than just mining, serious though that is. It restores 'prohibited activity' to being a useful tool under the RMA. It thus makes it possible to protect against certain types of very destructive activity, without going through lengthy and expensive case-by-case hearings on specific projects," Ms Fitzsimons says.

"This is why Coromandel Watchdog was joined by the Auckland Regional Council and Auckland City Council, who understood the need to use the RMA in the way it was intended.

"The Court has not tilted the balance unduly. If an applicant believes the case for mining on a certain site is very strong, they can still apply for a plan change for that site, effectively lifting the prohibited status for a small area. However that is a higher hurdle than just a consent application, and would need a good case.

"The Green Party supports the right of communities through their district plan to decide there are certain activities they don't want in large parts of their district.

"In the case of Coromandel, mining is not compatible with the spectacular coastal scenery which brings our main income from tourism - and nor is it compatible with the ecological values of conservation land which has been protected because of those special values.

"There is a lot of local anger that the Ministry of Economic Development was a litigant in this case, taking the part of the mining companies rather than the citizens of Coromandel. Taxpayers' money has been used to fight the local community, who had to fund raise for their case - and to fight against the ratepayers of Auckland, whose councils could foresee the limitations that a poor decision would place on the rights of Aucklanders to make their own decisions.

"The Greens congratulate Coromandel Watchdog for standing up for local decision making in three separate hearings, and wishes them all a good break from litigation now," Ms Fitzsimons says.


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