Wellington Scoop

Fair, effective, efficient?

Issues that have been challenged in the Supreme Court this week have parallels with the hearing that’s about to begin to decide on a flyover at the Basin Reserve.

Opposition to the flyover is being driven by local volunteers, and their situation is similar to the Sustain Our Sounds group who have taken an appeal to the Supreme Court against a salmon farm approved for the Marlborough Sounds. As Bev Doole wrote in the DomPost this week:

It has been a long haul for Sustain Our Sounds, a group of volunteers that runs on donations and goodwill. The EPA process has been far from “fair, effective and efficient” for them, especially as the Government has made no secret of its support for King Salmon.

Likewise, the Government has made no secret of its support for the flyover, and for the four-lane expressway across the quiet streets of Kapiti, in the face of opposition from the locals.

Doole also writes

There were further reminders of Government influence when Environment Minister Amy Adams turned down two judges recommended by the EPA for the board of inquiry into the Tukituki Catchment proposal, which includes the Ruataniwha Dam. Instead she appointed her choice, a High Court judge with no board of inquiry experience. It’s a familiar scenario for Sustain Our Sounds – Cabinet vetoed the appointment of a Marlborough Sounds resident on to the King Salmon board of inquiry.

Then, as now, the system is weighted against members of the community opposing an application … But this appeal isn’t really about salmon farms any more. It isn’t even about the Marlborough Sounds. It is about the legal integrity of the EPA board of inquiry process, which is fast becoming the battering ram for the Government’s economic growth agenda.

Bev Doole describes how the process began.

Cabinet Minister Nick Smith proclaimed his vision for a “fair, effective and efficient regulator of our environment” when he gave birth to the Environmental Protection Authority back in 2011. The EPA and its new fast-track planning process was his answer to long, drawn-out legal battles holding up economic development. He’d had enough of local councils and the Environment Court taking years to decide the fate of projects such as new power stations and motorways. Instead projects of “national significance” would be heard by a board of inquiry and be done and dusted in nine months.

The results of the process were on view last week when the Supreme Court refused to allow Save Kapiti to continue its opposition to the Kapiti Expressway, a decision which Gerry Brownlee (disregarding the unhappiness of Waikanae residents) said was cause for celebration.

And the process will be under scrutiny again in January when another government-appointed board of inquiry starts its hearing on the Transport Agency’s Basin flyover proposal. By the time the hearing begins, the government’s chosen representatives will have only four months to deliver their decision, because the nine-month ticking clock began when the process was first notified in August. And they’ll be well aware of the fact that the Government, who appointed them, is a supporter of the flyover.

Kent Duston: Farce and arrogance at board of inquiry hearings in Paraparaumu
Environmental Defence Society: Concern about fairness of board of inquiry process

1 comment:

  1. Elaine Hampton, 26. November 2013, 10:06

    RMA changes, BOI’s – ‘All about the transfer of power from the judiciary to the executive’.
    Failing societies overinvest in infrastructure, as we are doing with the RONS, which with rising oil prices and peak everything will be as useful as the overseas passenger terminal was by the time it was completed.
    We are suffering the Aucklandisation of Wellington. In the 21st century this government seems determined to drag us back to the 20th century.
    This money should go into public transport to help our future generations cope.