Thursday, May 08, 2014

Environmental Reporting Bill: No-one trusts the Minister

Parliament's Local Government and Environment Committee is currently hearing submissions on the Environmental Reporting Bill. One clear message? No-one trusts the Minister:

Ministerial control over scientific reporting into the state of New Zealand's environment hovers "like a brooding omnipresence in the sky", a constitutional law expert says.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer was one several submitters calling for a change to a proposed law, which at present, would see the Environment Minister control what subjects were included in any scientific reports.


"It's very important that the reports be completely independent. They cannot be independent if the bill in its present form proceeds, because the ministers have the power to set the topics. That should not be the case," he said.

He has a solution as well: allow the House to add topics (implicitly by resolution, and possibly on the recommendation of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment), but require law to remove them. This sort of one-way mechanism also makes clear the underlying concern: that Ministers will sanitise the topics to prevent criticism. If they can do that, the reports are not worth having, because no-one will accept them as reliable.

Hopefully they'll have submisisons up soon so I can go through and see whether anyone actually agreed with the secrecy regime.