Wellington Scoop

Flyover inquiry gets more time, and Amy Adams disappoints herself

Amy Adams is disappointed. What’s led to her disappointment? It’s her decision as Environment Minister to give three months more time to the Board of Inquiry that’s trying to decide whether or not to allow the Transport Agency to build a flyover alongside the Basin flyover.

Here’s what she said in her announcement yesterday:

It is disappointing the Board is not able to meet the original expectations set out for the inquiry, but … there are particular circumstances that need to be taken into account. The Board’s request for a time extension cited the substantial volume of material, a large number of distinctive issues and the length of time necessary to allow for cross-examination of witnesses as extraordinary circumstances in support of its request.

She’s obviously disgruntled.

An extension of this length is an exception rather than the norm.

The extension of time was requested by the Board “to ensure that the decision-making process would provide a full and fair hearing.”

If Amy Adams had said no, she would have been accused of obstructing the “full and fair” process.

But as recently as last Wednesday, it seemed she was not willing to extend the hearing. On that day, she wrote to one of the participants in the inquiry defending the fast-track process (“to reduce costs and delays while ensuring robust decision making”) and said:

I consider that nine months is a reasonable timeframe for boards of inquiry to reach their decision on nationally significant proposals… For example, the Kapiti to Peka Peka expressway was a complex proposal [and] despite the complexity and large volume of submissions the board was able to reach its decision within the nine-month time frame.

What happened to change her mind? We’ll never know. But we do know that she is under fire on the subject of conflicts of interest. On the same day that she wrote the letter, the Rebuilding Christchurch website published an investigation by James Macbeth Dann in which he described links between controversial Canterbury irrigation projects and farms owned by the Minister. The subject was further explored on 13 March by Rob Salmond on the Polity website. He writes that appears Amy Adams has been a very active participant in government decisions that affect the profitability of an irrigation company which she part-owns. His finding: There is a clear conflict of interest.

So while she may be disappointed by her decision to approve more time for the Basin flyover inquiry, she will also be experiencing other equally strong emotions as she assesses the revelations from James Macbeth Dann and Rob Salmond.

Extension of time “inevitable … good news,” say Labour MPs