INDEPENDENT NEWS

NIWA Should Not Threaten Legal Action

Published: Thu 26 Jul 2001 02:34 PM
NIWA Should Justify Itself, Not Threaten Legal Action
ACT leader Richard Prebble says he's concerned that state agencies are increasingly reacting to scrutiny from MPs by threatening and engaging in legal action.
"The Wool Board financed a court case against ACT MP Owen Jennings which has cost Mr Jennings $200,000. New Zealand Post took me to the High Court, and Christine Rankin threatened Sue Bradford with a defamation case.
"Now we have the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), a Crown entity, threatening ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff with libel action because he questioned the accuracy of NIWA's long-range weather forecasts.
"As ACT leader, I've investigated this matter and Mr Eckhoff has produced a long-range forecast for this winter. It predicted average rainfall over the whole country, with average to above average temperatures.
"Mr Eckhoff advises me that as a high country farmer, he's aware of fellow farmers who acted on the NIWA forecasts in their farming decisions. They now find themselves in serious strife because in many parts of the country it has been a dry winter.
"Mr Eckhoff is accurate in his statement that a lack of rain in South Island catchments has contributed to the electricity crisis.
"It's a serious matter, in a country where the weather has a profound effect on electricity generation and the performance of the primary export industry, when NIWA, the government agency charged with producing long-range weather forecasts, can get it so wrong.
"Our Parliamentary system depends on fearless scrutiny by MPs. The Clark government seems to be condoning the use of the courts by state agencies to prevent scrutiny. This is a serious development.
"I'm writing to the Prime Minister, asking her to issue a Cabinet instruction that state agencies are not to threaten MPs with legal action. In a democracy, the state agencies' response should be to justify themselves, not threaten legal action," Mr Prebble said.
ENDS

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