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Minister’s “Glacial” Pace Unprecedented

Minister’s “Glacial” Pace Unprecedented

23 December 2016

Twelve months after a Water Conservation Order (WCO) was lodged with the Minister for the Environment, there is still no action by the Government to initiate the enquiry process.

Fish & Game Chief Executive Bryce Johnson lodged the Ngaruroro Water Conservation Order on behalf of the five co-applicants on December 22 last year.

“It is unprecedented that a WCO application should take this long to be sent off to the Ministerially appointed ‘special tribunal’, as required under Part 9 of the Resource Management Act”.

“All the Minister has to do at this initial stage under the law is ‘accept’ the application, on the basis that it makes an adequate pro-forma case for protection worthy of appointing the required ‘special tribunal’ to then formally hear it”, Mr Johnson said.

“This particular application is the most comprehensive WCO application that has ever been made, and there are absolutely zero grounds for the Minister to delay or reject formally receiving it and doing his simple initial part in processing it”.

From that point the Minister has no other involvement and simply waits until the Tribunal, or any higher Court, comes back to him with a recommendation following completion of the statutorily defined processes.

Mr Johnson says “this is an unjustified and unprecedented delay which potentially has very significant legal consequences”.

A WCO doesn’t actually protect a waterbody until the Order in Council creating it is signed by the Governor General.

“So between the date of a WCO application and the final Order in Council being signed off, a Regional Council is able to receive and process resource consents that could actually undermine the outstanding characteristics for which the WCO is being sought”.

Water Conservation Orders are the freshwater equivalent of ‘National Park status’ for our iconic conservation lands and the Minister has a clear duty in law to honour the intent of parliament regarding applications for their protection.


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