INDEPENDENT NEWS

Fast Track Bill Should Be Withdrawn

Published: Sat 11 May 2024 04:20 PM
The Fast Track Approvals Bill should be renamed the Cloak, Choke and Destroy Bill, says Cath Wallace for the national alliance of organisations for conservation and the environment (ECO).
ECO gave its oral submission today (Friday 10th May) to the Environment Select Committee of Parliament calling on the bill to be withdrawn.
Cath Wallace said ECO objected to the Cloaks of secrecy that the bill would introduce because it:Forbids public notification of project applications;Denies the public rights to appear and to be heard;Contains provisions that would deny recourse to the Official Information Act and the Ombudsman’s Act;
and because of the government’s refusal to table the list of project applications while the bill is being considered by the Select Committee.
These are all part of the concealment and “Dark Government”, cloak in the Bill, Cath Wallace said.
The Bill would “choke” democracy and undermine and destroy public confidence. “Its objectives would choke off protection of the environment, endanger conservation areas, wildlife, heritage areas and values, and lead to poor decision making on inadequate information.”
It will permit inadequate scrutiny, mining, daming, harmful roading and infrastructure and other harmful activities in much of our conservation and protected areas and waters. It would deny consideration of social, cultural and community concerns and destroy public confidence and project legitimacy.
The Bill would lead to bad outcomes all round.
The legislation would harm the environment, while encouraging lobbying and potential corruption, apply unfair processes to communities and to tangata whenua and affected people.
Cath Wallace said It would deny the right to have recourse to appeals on substance and diminish appeal rights to higher courts - all from a coalition that claims to respect the rule of law.
The Bill fails to consider and does not comply with New Zealand’s international obligations and law and it fails to give effect to the Treaty of Waitangi.
The provisions of the Bill will destroy New Zealand’s reputation and the reputations of the companies and projects that want to use it, should it be passed.
ECO suggests that the quest for speed is better achieved by providing for a clear “fabric” for decision making on projects via plans, standards, and policies.
“Projects must be assessed within environmental, social and Treaty and international law constraints and by open and transparent processes if we are to maintain and protect environmental functions and values, Te Tiriti, democratic and participatory rights.
That would give greater guidance and speed for projects, rather than just chopping people out of the process and leaving the environment and communities at risk. “The Bill does not provide environmental protection, good quality decision making, certainty, public participation or speed. It should be withdrawn.” she said.

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