Min­is­ter pro­poses to re­verse Govt law

The Southland Times - - NEWS - MAR­JORIE COOK

The Gov­ern­ment will at­tempt to re­verse a Na­tional-led law change that has re­moved the pub­lic’s right to par­tic­i­pate in dis­cre­tionary re­source con­sent pro­cesses, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter David Parker says.

The Re­source Leg­is­la­tion Amend­ment Act 2017 also re­moved the right for ap­pli­cants and sub­mit­ters to ap­peal dis­cre­tionary re­source con­sent de­ci­sions made by district coun­cils. The law came into ef­fect on Oc­to­ber 18.

Up­per Clutha En­vi­ron­men­tal So­ci­ety chair­man Ju­lian Ha­worth says the law threat­ens land­scape pro­tec­tion and in­formed de­ci­sion mak­ing. He was ‘‘ec­static’’ Parker was sup­port­ing a law change.

‘‘It is great to see the new Gov­ern­ment cares about land­scapes. I’m rapt. Though, the coun­cil can do it much more quickly, if it wants,’’ Ha­worth said.

Last week, Ha­worth called for the Queen­stown Lakes District Coun­cil to change the district plan so ru­ral devel­op­ments were all treated as non-com­ply­ing, an ap­proach the coun­cil’s plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment gen­eral man­ager Tony Avery said the coun­cil did not in­tend to take.

The Queen­stown Lakes District sub­mit­ted against the law change when it went through Par­lia­ment.

Af­ter tak­ing le­gal ad­vice on the new law, it is­sued a prac­tice note in Oc­to­ber, stat­ing all dis­cre­tionary ru­ral sub­di­vi­sions would not be no­ti­fied to the pub­lic. Only in limited, spe­cial cir­cum­stances can some peo­ple have a say.

In­de­pen­dent Queen­stown plan­ning bar­ris­ter War­wick Gold­smith has queried whether the new prac­tice is legally cor­rect.

When for­mer en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Dr Nick Smith’s amend­ment bill went through Par­lia­ment, Parker said it was ‘‘an ap­palling piece of leg­is­la­tion’’.

Parker told Stuff this week re­mov­ing pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tion and ap­peal rights was go­ing ‘‘a step too far’’ for ap­pli­cants and sub­mit­ters. ‘‘We still think that was wrong. ‘‘We are in­tend­ing to have some re­form of the Re­source Man­age­ment Act and that would be one of the things that we would fix,’’ he said.

How­ever, he did not want to give the im­pres­sion a law change would be a quick fix.

Amend­ing the act re­quired ‘‘a big piece of work’’, he said.

‘‘We have the gen­eral view that we ought not to take away the pub­lic’s right to par­tic­i­pate but we should make sure pro­cesses under the Re­source Man­age­ment Act are dealt with quickly

‘‘... we don’t think the right way to go is to rip peo­ple’s rights off them,’’ Parker said.

Land­scape was one of the most pre­cious things in Queen­stown and Wanaka and if en­vi­ron­men­tal watch­dogs such as Ha­worth and the late Barry Lawrence had not fought to pro­tect land­scapes, the district would be very dif­fer­ent to­day, he said.

Parker said he had two queries re­gard­ing the coun­cil’s prac­tice note but he could not at­tempt to an­swer them: firstly, whether the coun­cil was ap­pro­pri­ately ap­ply­ing the new law; se­condly, whether an ap­pli­ca­tion for a ‘‘build­ing plat­form’’ fell within the mean­ing of a ‘‘sub­di­vi­sion’’.

‘‘Peo­ple will have to ex­plore for them­selves ... if the coun­cil is wrong and is act­ing ul­tra vires [be­yond one’s le­gal power], that is not for me to de­ter­mine.’’

Ju­lian Ha­worth

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