Parliament's Local Government and Environment Committee began hearing submissions on the Environmental Reporting Bill last week. Today, those submissions finally hit the website. Browsing through them, there are a couple of obvious features:
- Everyone supports the purpose of the bill (no submitter opposed it);
- There is widespread discomfort with the Minister choosing what is reported on (about 25% of submissions opposed this);
- A majority of submissions (33 of 55) opposed the secrecy clause. Most opposed it because they supported transparency and saw the clause as undermining the independence of reporting, but there was a strong strand from local government (who will be supplying much of the information which could be suppressed) opposing it on the basis of intellectual property rights. Only three submitters explicitly supported the clause: Fonterra, Federated Farmers, and the newly-privatised Mighty River Power (who wanted it expanded to cover "commercially sensitive" information as well). I think its clear then who wants it and why.
I am hoping that this level of opposition, from Officers of Parliament, environmental groups, business groups, and ordinary citizens, will convince the government to back down and preserve transparency.
The committee is currently due to report by September 5, but given that Parliament will be dissolved before then, we can probably expect it to be bumped until after the election.