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Angling-Conservation Group Sees Fast Track Bill As Undemocratic

A national angling conservation group opposes the government’s proposed legislation for fast track approvals for development projects.

Principal reasons for the opposition is the loss of the public’s democratic right to have “a fair say” and the vital need for a government free from corruption, said Casey Cravens of Dunedin, president of the New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers.

“This bill is the worst environmental legislation since Muldoon’s National Development Act of 1979. The Fast-track Approvals Bill violates public interest and would lead to rash exploitation of natural resources with no regard for environmental consequences,” he said.

“It is short-sighted, lacks transparency, and ignores an evidence-based approach to decision making. This legislation is profoundly undemocratic and may violate many of our most basic laws—from the Resource Management Act to the Treaty of Waitangi to the Conservation Act, the Reserves Act and the Wildlife Act.”

The bill’s proposed processes for “fast-tracking” adds further to the erosion of democracy that the National Party started when in 2010, it sacked the democratically elected government of Environment Canterbury, he said.

“As the Environmental Defence Society has pointed out, this is ministerial overreach.”

Cravens also called for the public comment period on the bill - which was limited to two weeks and under-promoted - be extended so the public could catch up to speed on the most sweeping constitutional change in almost 50 years.

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The New Zealand Federation of Freshwater Anglers (NZFFA) is a politically independent, advocacy for trout and salmon recreational fishing, the habitat of rivers, lakes and streams and the environment generally.

The bill proposes by-passing the normal select committee process where the public can voice their concerns. It also privileges development over sustainability.

Don’t Diminish Democracy

New Zealanders deserve affordable housing, a restored responsive public health system and a robust economy, Cravens said.

“But the solution is not in diminishing democracy and environmental science but rather in cutting needless bureaucracy.”

If passed into law, the bill will result in three Ministers having the sole final decision without any public input.

The Ministers have unbridled power to ignore public opinion and the public interest by

  • By excluding the public and failing to provide reasons for fast-tracking certain projects, the approval process creates the appearance that corporate consultants and other money-driven individuals will have free reign to lobby ministers without scrutiny.
  • One minister will decide the composition of the Fast Track Advisory Group, with the sole aim intensive development with no attempt at sustainable policy.
  • Appointments to the proposed Fast Track Advisory Group will be entirely at the discretion of a minister whose sole objective will be to increase economic growth. No criteria for membership of the group has been listed.

On potential corruption, Mr Cravens said there were past examples of big business donating to a political party or candidate in return for later favourable considerations. This has long been the case with New Zealand’s freshwater crisis and also with the sea fishing industry.


Advice indicates there are fast-track provisions already in place which enable reasonable decision-making on major projects within reasonable time without trampling over environmental protections.

“The NZFFA understands that approvals, on average, are under 100 days, a reasonable time for any proposal and importantly a reasonable time for public input,” he said.

The Federation considers the action of minister Chris Bishop in canvassing commercial interests even before public submissions have been heard, as injudicious and pre-empting the select committee process.

“The Federation joins the calls of the environmental community and others for reopening the public comment period on this legislation, which was only two weeks and under-promoted,” he said.

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