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Councillor “furious” at changes to plans for Town Belt legislation

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Wellington’s Natural Environment Portfolio leader Helene Ritchie, who has led the creation of the Wellington Town Belt Bill over five years with unanimous support from the city council, says she is furious that the Council has tonight voted to make it easier in law to take Town Belt land.

Councillors voted 12-3 tonight to propose changes to the draft bill that they unanimously supported two months ago. The three who opposed the changes were Councillors Ritchie, Pannett and Free.

“It is plainly ridiculous for the Council to approve a submission which is contrary to the Bill, and does not support the key element – to protect the Town Belt,” says Councillor Ritchie. “The submission potentially ‘rips the guts’ out of the Town Belt, making it easier for the Crown to take the land for roading, housing, hospitals and any other kind of public work.

“The new proposals appear to be directly contrary to the Bill supported unanimously by the Council just two months ago, agreed by a majority of submitters, and intended to be introduced by the local M.P. on July 22. Instead, unauthorised secret meetings, which excluded myself, were held after that resolution, in July/August between the deputy mayor, the mayor and one Minister, and lawyers on behalf of the Transport Agency, the council and government officials.

“The Council’s submission is now inconsistent with its own Bill. That is a nonsense. The Bill now appears to be inconsistent within itself and endangers the Town Belt:

“The proposed new clause 23 (4) means that it allows the compulsory acquisition to proceed without waiting for the issue of compensation to be resolved and appears to be in direct contradiction with Cl 13, (which does not allow this and states ‘council has no power to sell, exchange or use as security any part of the Town Belt.’

“Allowing compulsory acquisition and making it easier is contrary to the spirit and purpose of the Town Belt Bill – to, protect, enhance and manage the Town Belt on behalf of the inhabitants of Wellington. It is also contrary to the responsibilities entrusted to Councillors as Trustees of the Town Belt. The Council has a moral and legal responsibility to protect the Town Belt, not to allow its sale.

“These changes completely expose the Council, the land, and the Town Belt. They substantially weaken the Council’s ability to protect the Town Belt and instead propose to allow and strengthen the Government’s ability to take the land and at any price and without having conclusive land compensation, thus undermining the core of the Bill which should have been introduced into Parliament on July 22.

“The Government already has significant powers of acquisition to take land under the Public Works Act. That is understood. But the changes today make that even easier, and expose the Town Belt and Council’s ability to be properly compensated, all unnecessarily.

“The Bill is intended to be an Act to protect and enhance the Town Belt for the next 100 years. It is about Wellington’s future and is a city wide issue. The Town Belt is a taonga to be protected. The Council has specific legal responsibilities as Trustees for the Town Belt.”

1 comment:

  1. Guy, 21. August 2015, 6:42

    So, the key thing to note here is the “unauthorised secret meetings, which excluded myself, were held after that resolution, in July/August between the deputy mayor, the mayor and one Minister, and lawyers on behalf of the Transport Agency, the council and government officials.”

    Clearly, the WCC were told at that meeting that the Bill would not pass unless it was changed, that compulsory acquisition would not be held up by discussion over potential compensation, and that 6 lanes of traffic would be going through whether they liked it or not. NZTA will not let itself be backed into a corner – roads are king and must be allowed to go everywhere, according to National party Joycean ethos. So we have lost the battle on this one, before it even started. But thanks should go to Clr Helene Ritchie for at least allowing WCC the pretence of putting up a resistance, even if it was always doomed to fail at hurdle number 1.