06, Nov, 2008

Friends of the Earth NZ warning on National Party environment policies

Category: Friends of the Earth - NZ

One of New Zealand's longest standing environmental watchdog groups has issued a warning that the environmental policies of the National Party constitute an unprecedented threat to both enviromnental protection and the future role of watchdog groups in New Zealand.

Friends of the Earth (NZ) Co-director, Bob Tait, said that "National plans to gut the Ministry for the Environment, and expand ERMA (ENVIRONMENT RISK MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY) into a new regulatory body - the Environment Protection Agency(EPA). The key problem with this proposal is that ERMA already has a very disturbing track record of being a highly permissive body. In fact ERMA has approved every application to it that involved genetic modification. They appear unable to say "NO".

"Just recently ERMA have agreed to consider applications from AgResearch that involve mixing cell-lines from humans and monkeys with over 16 species of animals, at unspecified locations and for an indefinite period. This week a High Court challenge has been lodged against ERMA by GE Free NZ.

"In our view, ERMA is possibly the worst organisation to be given the responsibility for the national regulatory functions of the RMA, or the development of binding National Environmental Standards and National Policy Statements.

"National not only plan to do just this, but they also intend to rewrite the RMA within 100 days of taking office. One detail that they have released, is their intention to re-introduce the provision for objectors to be required to put up a substantial cash security/surety for costs before being able to engage in appeals.

"There are already legal provisions in place to deal with "frivolous and vexatious" objections, and every party who appeals to the Environment Court faces the prospect of having costs awarded against them. The effect of placing a huge cash hurdle 'at the front of the hearing' would be to rule out the participation of respected watchdog groups, such as FoE(NZ).

"Thus we may not be able to constructively engage in any appeals, and the successes that we have had, such as the protection of marine mammals from damages from underwater blasting in the Hauraki Gulf, the protection of endangered species in areas where aerial poison drops are to take place, etc, may come to an end.

"Every time that FoE(NZ) has appealed, the applicant has asserted that our concerns were without substance, but we were able to put them forward for testing. The proposed security for costs policy would preclude our involvement."

Such policies are a serious threat to both environmental protection and the role of watchdogs.

Bob Tait,
FoE(NZ) (09) 3609149 office
(09) 3762503 voice mail