Shut Out Of Court
9 December 2004
SHUT OUT OF COURT
The Environment Court has until now enabled the community to appeal against Council decisions that would permit environmentally damaging projects in their domain. The National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) is concerned that those who wish to ensure that their patch is not adversely impacted by activities will not be deprived of their rights.
"If the proposed Resource Management and Electricity Legislation Amendment Bill is passed, the community will be shut out", said Christine Low, NCWNZ National President. "A major part of NCWNZ's work is to educate women about their rights to use instruments that will allow them to participate in making decisions about the world they wish to live in. Our work is in vain if the right and the means to appeal against a decision, is arbitrarily removed."
Under the current law, communities are given the power to appeal a decision to the Environment Court. However, the proposed amendments to the RMA Act will see large projects given directly to a committee appointed by the Minister for the Environment, thereby removing the responsibility from local bodies and with no possibility of an appeal to the Environment Court. The National Council of Women has in the past strongly opposed any amendment to the RMA that compromises its purpose and principles, and in particular opposed an earlier proposal that commissioners be appointed in the place of local councils in the resource consent process.
"Local people should have a local say," said Ms Low. "They know their locality and care for it. There is a risk of local people losing their concern for their immediate environment if things happen to it without their consent. It is communities which are ultimately the environmental protectors."
The National Council of Women of New Zealand is an umbrella organisation representing 42 nationally organised societies and has 33 Branches throughout New Zealand. These Branches are attended by representatives of national organisations and some 150 other societies. The Council has been in existence for over a century, and has long been the conduit of opinion between women and the government.