MP defends Government grant to Mackenzie Trust 23 Jul 2012
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Former Environment Minister Nick Smith says the Government’s $180,000 allocation towards getting agreement on a way forward in the Mackenzie Basin on contentious water, landscape, and biodiversity issues was good use of public money.
“The Mackenzie is an iconic area of New Zealand where debate over intensification of agriculture is more contentious than anywhere in the country. Millions of dollars were being spent in legal disputes over resource consents, district and regional plan rules, and tenure review. The Government wanted to try and facilitate broader agreement on a way forward.
“This process was initiated after 5000 submissions were lodged in response to a 16,000 cow cubicle farming operation in the Mackenzie. The Environment Protection Authority had estimated that it would cost $2.63 million to process this one consent application.
“The ‘mates rates’ accusation is rich from Labour when the previous Government spent far more with Ecologic and Guy Salmon. Labour funded a $2.21 million contract with Ecologic on researching alternative environmental dispute resolution through the Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology.
“Labour acknowledged then that Ecologic and Guy Salmon were the recognised experts in these alternative means of resolving environmental disputes. Ecologic received $88,000 of the $180,000 grant for the Mackenzie Trust for work at similar payment rates as the contract entered into with the previous Labour government.
“Officials’ concerns were that agreement was unlikely because the parties were so far apart. I was more optimistic and I am pleased that the 24 parties – including farmers, environmentalists, recreationalists, and tourism organisations – have subsequently come to an agreement. The Mackenzie Agreement is to be published next month.
“All of Labour’s criticisms could be equally applied to my decision to support the Land and Water Forum. The Ministry also advised against this process but it has also proved successful and has enabled more progress to be made on water issues than there has been in decades.
“National stood on a platform in 2008 of using alternatives to the courts to try resolving contentious environmental issues. The Mackenzie is just one of the many projects that have made progress under this innovative policy.’’
(New Zealand Government)
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