Gorse spray­ing still in dis­pute

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By MICHAEL KOPP

Gorse spray­ing with a toxic her­bi­cide in Whi­tireia Re­gional Park looked set to go ahead on the week­end but with more strict con­trols.

The con­trols were agreed to by Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil (GWRC) af­ter Ti­tahi Bay Res­i­dents As­so­ci­a­tion (TBRA) took the is­sue to the En­vi­ron­ment Court.

The agree­ment be­tween TBRA and GWRC was reached af­ter the court said it could not make a de­ci­sion on the ba­sis of in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by TBRA alone, and sug­gested ne­go­ti­a­tion be­tween the par­ties.

TBRA had chal­lenged both the en­vi­ron­men­tal safety and the le­gal­ity of the spray­ing go­ing ahead.

TBRA chair­man Graeme Eb­bett said the Whi­tireia Park Board held no le­gal meet­ings and a tele­con­fer­ence the board claimed was le­gal that passed a res­o­lu­tion to al­low the spray­ing was a ‘‘sham’’.

The court did not rule on the le­gal­ity of the de­ci­sions, as that is not the court’s role un­der the Re­source Man­age­ment Act.

The TBRA af­fi­davit asked for an in­terim en­force­ment or­der to pro­hibit GWRC from spray­ing the park be­cause of the risk to the en­vi­ron­ment from the meta­sul­furon her­bi­cide, trade­named An­swer by DuPont.

Dupont’s own warn­ings about it are ex­treme, it says.

Mr Eb­bett said the stricter con­di­tions were not good enough, but all they could get un­der the cir­cum­stances.

The as­so­ci­a­tion was look­ing at all av­enues to pre­vent the spray­ing go­ing ahead un­til their other com­plaint about the board meet­ings’ le­gal­ity and process ad­e­quacy was de­ter­mined.

TBRA said the process GWRC, DOC and the board claimed they went through, in­volv­ing plans and con­sul­ta­tion, had not been prop­erly done or not done at all.

Mr Eb­bett said, con­trary to claims by GWRC, there had been no con­sul­ta­tion, no draft plan ap­proved, and the spray­ing would be close to streams, wet­lands and other pro­tected ar­eas.

The agree­ment be­tween GWRC and TBRA in­creases the spray­ing set­back from these ar­eas, in­creases the droplet size of the spray to re­duce spray drift on the wind, and in­creases the mon­i­tor­ing of the spray­ing.

GWRC said the spray­ing was le­gal with­out a no­ti­fied re­source con­sent and hear­ings be­cause it is a per­mit­ted ac­tiv­ity un­der the re­gional air qual­ity rules un­der cer­tain con­di­tions.

Mr Eb­bett said those con­di­tions have not been com­plied with. He said there was no spray­ing plan and no plan for re­gen­er­a­tion of plants.

GWRC and DOC have said ap­proval was given prop­erly. How­ever, of­fi­cial doc­u­ments and DOC con­fir­ma­tion in­di­cate there were no le­gal meet­ings of the board to do so.

The Septem­ber 30 meet­ing that GWRC said ap­proved the spray­ing, and a sub­se­quent ‘‘work­shop’’ and ‘‘tele­con­fer­ence’’ meet­ings all ap­pear to have been un­law­ful un­der the Lo­cal Govern­ment Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion and Meet­ings Act (LGOIMA).

Af­ter DOC re­alised the first meet­ing was not le­gal, a ‘‘work­shop’’ passed a res­o­lu­tion even though it was recog­nised that work­shops can­not legally make de­ci­sions and there was no quorum.

Mr McKenzie then held a ‘‘tele­con­fer­ence meet­ing’’ – whose min­utes show a quorum ‘‘present’’ – and that ‘‘meet­ing’’ ap­proved the spray­ing – de­spite be­ing non-pub­lic and non-no­ti­fied.

Mr McKenzie said that he be­lieved the tele­con­fer­ence meet­ing was le­gal un­der the Re­serves Act’s pro­vi­sions for ‘‘ other meet­ings’’, and he did not know any­thing about the meet­ing be­ing sub­ject to LGOIMA. ‘‘We don’t want to do any­thing il­le­gal.’’ He said the spray­ing would not be sus­pended while the is­sue was re­solved.

‘‘If it turns out that the de­ci­sion was il­le­gal, we’ll just hold an­other proper meet­ing of the board and pass a new res­o­lu­tion.’’

Nei­ther GWRC nor new re­gional councillor from Porirua, Jenny Brash, had re­sponded to our ques­tions about the le­gal­ity of the de­ci­sion.

Mr Eb­bett said on Fri­day the group had made an ur­gent com­plaint to the Om­buds­men’s Of­fice and the Au­di­tor Gen­eral about the il­le­gal­ity of GWRC’s ac­tions.

It sought a request by the Om­buds­men’s Of­fice for GWRC to hold off on the spray­ing un­til the le­gal ques­tions and a proper plan­ning and con­sul­ta­tion process had been com­pleted.

The Om­buds­men’s Of­fice had replied that the is­sue was not so clearly de­fined as to make an ur­gent in­ves­ti­ga­tion rea­son­able.

Mr Eb­bett said the only other course ap­peared to be to ask the High Court for an or­der – but the ex­pense and time re­quired made that a very dif­fi­cult propo­si­tion.

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