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Balance moves against environment and community

3 February 2009

Balance moves against environment and community

The Government's proposed Resource Management (Simplify and Streamline) Amendment Bill, announced this afternoon, changes the balance away from environmental protection and community involvement and towards unsustainable development, say the Greens.

"While there are a few positive elements in the amendments announced today, overall they will make it harder for ordinary New Zealanders to participate in local decision making in their community," Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman says.

"On the positive side, increasing the fines for corporate consent breaches is a step forward. Large dairy companies that destroy rivers have laughed at the ludicrously low fines awarded by the Environment Court in the past. And giving councils the ability to seek enforcement action against the Crown may have prevented some of the worst mistakes made in the Ministry for the Environment botched cleanup of the Mapua toxic site.

"However, increasing the filing fees for Environment Court cases and the requirement for security of costs will silence legitimate public input into local decision making. Shouldn't ordinary citizens have a say if their neighbour wants to build a ten storey building?

"How many community groups, made up of regular citizens, not millionaires, can come up with tens of thousands of dollars in security when they are trying to protect a coastal area from a property speculator?

"The proposal to further limit public notification is very worrying. Already 95% of consent applications are not notified. How would you feel if you woke up tomorrow to find your neighbour building a ten storey building because National said there's no need to notify the public?

"The public get left in the dark while developers get streamlined. That seems to be the intent of these reforms.

"More national environmental standards and direction are welcome, so long as they set environmental minimum standards rather than maximum standards.

"The requirement for businesses submitting against their competitors to disclose all their community involvement is welcome. However, in the interest of transparency, shouldn't applicants also be required to reveal their financial involvement with community groups engaged in the consent process?


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