Environmental groups' court intervention 'unnecessary, inappropriate': Manawatu council

The Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council says the Environment Court is being asked to make "generalised, unnecessary and inappropriate" rules about how it considers applications for resource consents by environmental advocates.

Wellington Fish & Game Council and the Environmental Defence Society are asking the court to issue seven declarations forcing the council to consider consents differently. They say the council is contravening the Resource Management Act (RMA) and its own regional 'Horizon One Plan' when granting consents for dairy farming and isn't properly regulating nitrogen leaching.

The hearing, which is set down for a week, entered its second day this morning, with lawyer Paul Beverley concluding the council's submission. The council says the declarations sought by the agencies are wide-ranging, lack the focus necessary for the court to make them, and some of the requested rules would ask the court to restate the wording of the RMA or the One Plan.

The Environment Court has broad discretion to make declarations under the RMA but has repeatedly declined to use that discretion to make declarations in other cases, Mr Beverley said. Some of the declarations sought would remove the council's statutory discretion under the RMA.

"The respondent must be able to exercise that discretion in the particular circumstances of an individual application, and generalised declarations that seek to bind the respondent in the processing of future resource consents are unnecessary and inappropriate," Mr Beverley said. He added that the agencies' legal submissions were wide-ranging and addressed a number of issues beyond what was sought by the declarations.

Yesterday, Fish & Game's lawyer Sarah Ongley said the council's approach doesn't assess the effect of contaminants that could enter the water for individual consent applications and doesn't impose a limit on nitrogen leaching for granting consents, and that approach isn't allowed under the RMA nor the One Plan.

Beverley said the council maintains its desire and willingness to work with the agencies and other interested parties to "continually improve the implementation of the One Plan."


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