When the law is an ass, Chief Justice Sian Elias is, it seems, not afraid of saying so.
Under the Resource Management Act, local authorities considering an application for discharge of greenhouse gases are prohibited from considering the effect of the emissions on climate change “except to the extent that the use and development of renewable energy enables a reduction in discharge into the air of greenhouse gases.”
In plain English that means that a party that wishes to produce non-renewable energy can ignore the effects on climate change, whereas parties that wish to produce the far more desirable renewable energy may be have their plans challenged.
Chief Justice Elias thinks that’s silly, and anyone with half a brain would agree.
The issue arose when the Supreme Court was considering an application by Genesis Energy to discharge greenhouse gases from its planned gas-fired power station near Helensville, north of Auckland.
Like the Court of Appeal before it, the Supreme Court said by a four-to-one majority that the exception applied only to applications for renewable energy production, not non-renewable energy as in Genesis’ case.
Dissenting from her fellow Justices, Justice Elias said that in her view the intent of the law was that the greenhouse gas matter should apply equally to applications for non-renewable and renewable energy production.
Don’t we all love a judge who realises when the wording of the law has got something fundamentally wrong and has the guts to say so.
Only problem is that her four colleagues on the bench upheld the law to the letter so Genesis doesn’t have to worry about the climate change matter.