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Greens: No Justice At All In RMA Changes

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Russel Norman
Russel Norman

12 February 2009 - Changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) mean that the wealthy developer and the little Kiwi battler are in a David and Goliath situation - except the Kiwi battler no longer has a sling, said Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman today.

The Green Party has revealed, in Parliament, that the Minister of Justice's own officials are concerned that an unequal playing field is about to be further tilted in favour of those with the most money. The Green Party is also worried by the loss of the fundamental right of appeal in the Government's RMA proposals.

The cost of lodging an appeal is set to skyrocket if the Government's changes to the RMA are successful. Under the new legislation the costs of lodging an appeal will balloon from $50 to $500.

"The Minister of Justice Simon Power has assured Parliament that his Government wants all New Zealanders to have equal 'access to justice'. I hope Mr Power, after assuring Parliament today that sufficient protection has been put in place for those with limited funds, will not be left with egg on his face after the legislation is tabled," said Dr Norman. "The changes announced so far will leave community groups organising sausage sizzles to scrape together the funds to protect their backyards. The Government's 'security for costs' scheme, whereby a community group must lodge a bond before they can even be heard, has been tried before. The result was corporate developers threatening to bankrupt community groups that dared object," Dr Norman said.

Under the current RMA guidelines a small community group was able to stop a 15 story development in Paihia in the Environment Court. This building would have been visible from the Waitangi Treaty grounds and was opposed by the local community. The Green Party is concerned that if access to the Environment Court tilts towards those with the fattest wallets it will be groups, such as the Paihia residents association, that will find themselves locked out of the justice system.

"The Government should have more faith in an independent judiciary. Under the current legislation the Environment Court itself can throw out vexatious and flippant appeals. And let's not forget that only one in one thousand resource consent applications currently gets a hearing in the Environment Court. So the risk of vexatious litigation is negligible," said Dr Norman.

"Let's make certain everyone gets a say in what happens to their own backyard."

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