Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Reported back

The Local Government and Environment Committee has reported back [PDF] on the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill, and failed to make any recommendation on whether it be passed. This is highly unusual for a government bill. On most committees in this Parliament the government can simply use its majority to force passage regardless of what the other parties think. But Local Government and Environment is evenly split, with six National members and six opposition ones. While the chair could have used their casting vote to force passage, for some reason she decided not to. Which can only be seen as an implicit agreement with the opposition's assessment of the bill as too flawed to progress.

Those flaws are serious. Quite apart from being too lax on environmental protection and failing to reflect our international obligations over the EEZ, the regime the bill proposes has major technical flaws as well. While superficially the same as the RMA, the regime is different in crucial areas, and these differences will cause confusion and ultimately litigation. Using the RMA's language would result in much clearer law, which would benefit everybody. Sadly, National seems opposed to clear environmental law - which is quite disturbing when you think about it.

Sadly, despite this vote of no confidence, the bill is likely to pass regardless. The government has a majority in the House, and they'll use it. The result will be a legislative mess. But hey, oil drillers will get a blank cheque, and that's all National cares about.

Correction: Chairs do not have a casting vote. There was no majority either way on the passage of the bill, so the committee reached no conclusion. Which shows that National failed to understand MMP and its need for consensus to progress legislation (either that, or they simply have contempt for the entire process)