MP Whaitiri's private member's bill comes under fire

By Maiki Sherman

Environment Minister Nick Smith has heavily criticised Meka Whaitiri's private member's bill regarding the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

The bill was recently pulled from the ballot and will advance to its first reading in parliament.

It's the battle of the bills for the environment.

Under Labour's bill the words environment protection will essentially be added to the Environment Protection Authority Act, an aim which they claim isn't strongly emphasised in the Act despite it being a core objective.     

Meka Whaitiri says, “Whatever decisions they are making, that environment protection is critical to their role, that's why they're there, there's been an omission in the legislation.  My member's bill clearly put up to correct that.”

Nick Smith says, “The idea that somehow by putting the words environment and protection and repeating them over several times in the act somehow does a better job at protecting the environment is a shallow as a bird bath.”

Meka Whaitiri says issues regarding the Ruataniwha dam is an example of the EPA's failure to adequately protect the environment. 

Ms Whaitiri says, “This bill will unlock all the opportunities to make sure the EPA is actually doing its role, that's what it's intended for.”

Metiria Turei says, “Meka's bill with give the EPA direct authority to put environmental protection ahead of other concerns, I think that's great.”

So, Meka Whaitiri's bill has gained support from the Greens and Māori parties.

However, it's rejected by National and Act, while NZ First and United Future are still considering it.  In regards to Nick Smith's RMA bill, its future depends heavily on the outcome of the Northland by-election.

National holds a majority of just one vote to pass the bill, so if they lose Northland there's difficult times ahead.

Nick Smith says, “There's no doubt that if National is not successful in the Northland by-election that the job of resource management reform is going to be more difficult.  I think that would be a pity for New Zealand.”

Marama Fox says, “We want to speak with the government about possible changes, so we're meeting with them in the coming weeks.”

Time will certainly tell if the sun will shine on these bills or whether they'll feel the whip of the political winds.