Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Gagging the public

Since coming to power in 2008, National has been desperate to lock the public out of resource management decisions. That's been the central feature of their RMA "reforms", but that's taken forever to pass. So they've found another way of doing it: gutting the Environmental Legal Assistance fund:

The Government have quietly changed the rules around an environmental legal assistance fund to render it basically useless, critics say.

The Environmental Legal Assistance (ELA) fund is a contestable pool of cash that organisations can apply to use in order to legally challenge developments on environmental grounds under the Resource Management Act.

It helps those groups fund the cost of lawyers and expert witnesses in Environment Court cases and Board of Inquiry hearings for "matters of national significance".


A new criteria, added on Friday with no press release, requires the panel who consider applications to to take into account whether granting the money will "contribute to impeding or delaying the ability of people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being in relation to important needs, including employment, housing and infrastructure."

[Control-freak Smith had already decided that he and he alone would determine which cases were funded...]

Which effectively frustrates the fund's key purpose: funding lawsuits in the public interest to test resource management decisions. These are important in an adversarial system, but National sees them simply as pointless delays to the wishes of their developer cronies and donors. But the challenges funded - for example to the Basin Reserve Flyover in Wellington and the Ruataniwha Dam in Hawke's Bay - have exposed poor decision-making and failure to consider core environmental costs by local government. In other words, without this fund, we would have worse environmental decision-making. But National doesn't care about that. Instead, it simply wants to give developers whatever they want, and fuck the public.