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Public deserves a better explanation about RMA

6 October 2004 - Wellington

Public deserves a better explanation from RMA Minister

RMA Minister David Benson-Pope should explain why one of his staff told the New Zealand Press Association that a list of major projects titled 'possible candidates for non-local decision making under the RMA' was not related to the RMA.

"The Minister still has not explained why his office told Forest and Bird that neither his office nor the Ministry for the Environment held the list, when clearly the list exists, because we've got it" said Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.

The list of possible candidates for the Government's proposed new call in process is explained paragraph 28 of the draft Ministry for the Environment paper which states "RMA Ministers have already directed officials to develop proposals for improving the Call-in process that could apply to such projects as the transmission upgrade or energy generation, prisons and new roads (possible candidates are listed in attachment 2)."

Attachment 2 is the list that Mr Benson-Pope now claims was "an outdated list of 39 major infrastructure projects compiled by the Ministry of Economic Development in 2003 - long before the Government initiated a review of the RMA."

"Officials writing this paper clearly understood that this so called 'outdated list' represented the kind of projects that RMA Ministers wanted a new call-in process to cover," said Forest and Bird's Conservation Manager Kevin Hackwell.

"The list may well have been originally compiled in 2003, but on June 24 of this year it was in a package of proposed measures for changing the RMA. According to the draft paper, the package had been shaped by the Minister and Associate Minister for the Environment on the basis of advice from officials and chief executives so it was hardly a junior-level document," he said.

"We welcome the fact that the Minister is distancing the Government from this list. We hope he is now saying that transmission upgrades, prisons, energy generation and new roads are not the kinds of projects the Government has in mind for the new call in process?" he said.

"It is important for the public to realise that they will lose their Environment Court appeal rights over any project that is put through the new call-in process. As Environment Minister Marian Hobbs made clear to the Resource Management Law Association on Saturday, a call-in Board's decision will be final with appeals on points of law only, and to the High Court," he said.

Notes:

Text from NZPA newswire on Tuesday 5 July 2004:

A spokesman for Mr Benson-Pope said the list was compiled by the Ministry of Economic Development last year and was not related to the RMA. ``It was something that they did entirely separately,'' the spokesman told NZPA. ``It's something that the Ministry of Economic Development have compiled... I guess you'd call it crystal ball gazing of infrastructure projects they can foresee in the future.''

Title of document: Package of improvements to the Resource Management Act

Title of list: Attachment 2: Possible candidates for Non Local Decision-Making under the RMA

Section of document explaining the role of the list and the priorities of RMA Ministers:

28. RMA Ministers have already directed officials to develop proposals for improving the Call-in process that could apply to such projects as the transmission upgrade or energy generation, prisons and new roads (possible candidates are listed in Attachment 2). Forest and Bird sought the list of projects from the Government through an Official Information Act request. In his response, RMA Minister David Benson-Pope refused to provide the list stating:

I am advised that no specific lists of major projects "suitable for the non-local decision-making process" has been prepared as part of the RMA review process. My office therefore holds no such list.

This was further clarified by an e-mail from one of the staff at Mr Benson-Pope's office that stated:

As we responded to you on the 15th of September, neither the Minister nor the Ministry for the Environment holds a list of projects suitable for non-local decision making.

The list comes from a Ministry for the Environment document dated 24 June 2004.

ENDS

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