National’s ‘unconstitutional and undemocratic environment law’ debated

E-Can Act and the Future of NZ environmental law” forum
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A well mannered crowd filled The Great Hall, Christchurch Arts Centre to capacity for a public panel discussion hosted by Lincoln University’s Faculty of Environment, Society and Design entitled The E-Can Act and the future of New Zealand environmental law 7-9 pm thursday 22 July

The Faculty of Environment, Society and Design at Lincoln University , New Zealand’s specialist land-based university hosted a public panel discussion as part of their commitment to public engagement and to the time-honoured role of universities as critics and conscience of society. Members of the public had the opportunity to pose questions to the panel during the evening. The discussion was chaired by Dr Ann Brower, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, Lincoln University.

The panelists after Dr Anne Brower are here reported from left to right from the photograph.

Maree Baker, Resource Management Partner, Anderson Lloyd Lawyers said that we have a lot of uncertainty as we no longer know what the rules are and there is no guidance given about the weight of irrigation as opposed to tourism and other amenity values.The Act reduces the ability of the public to participate and puts the quality of the decision making at risk.

The Hon. David Caygill, Environment Canterbury Commissioner informed the audience he was not an environmental lawyer and that he had nothing profound to say about the role of environmental law. He would not answer the question when asked if he agreed with Professor Philip Joseph that “The Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management’ Act is unconstitutional. However he did agree that we should go back to elected decision making as soon as possible and that we should be attempting to move to more collaborative decision making. A member of the audience asked what happens when you have one environmentalist against fifty farmers in a zonal committee.

Professor Philip Joseph, School of Law, University of Canterbury said the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Act, which was passed under urgency breaches several principles of law, is “constitutionally repugnant”, contains “elements of subterfuge” and is a “constitutional affront” since we have lost our right of recourse to the Environment Court. He went on to describe how section 32 was in effect a king Henry the eighth clause which gave statuary provision to determine which aspects of the resource Management Act will and will not apply. Our lynch pin of our right to justice has been taken away and the legislative speed did not promote the best outcome. There was a degree of stealth in the urgency to enact this legislation from go to woe passing three stages in 48 hours.We will have these temporary Commissioners longer than the 3 year life of Parliament. What I’m concerned about is the idea of proper process, and this was a departure,” he said.“This didn’t go through any select committee consideration, no submissions and no consultation. Why should urgency be taken on a matter such as this?” The act does away with democratic decision making.

Dr Russel Norman MP, Co-Leader of the Green Party said that we will have to campaign like crazy if we do not want our rivers mined and that zonal committees may not represent the will of the people of Canterbury when it comes to dealing with water issues.We need national policy implemented to phase out overallocation of water, address issues of water quality, protect wetlands and improve the integration of National Water Standards. We have had arbitrary and partisan intervention in regional decision making but what we need is central direction in Resource Management Act National policy. We have had Muldonist intervention framed by an idea of balance where economic development is at an ecological cost.

1 thought on “National’s ‘unconstitutional and undemocratic environment law’ debated

  1. I agree with this article. The Hon David Cagill did keep to his word. He had nothing to say that was profound and dodged all the questions like well drilled politician. Not only do the environmentalist lobby groups miss out in terms of the zonal committees so does any tangata whenua input at this level. Cheers Elsie

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