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Friday, June 11

Expanded EPA unlikely to have any teeth

An expanded Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be welcome if it provided strong independent environmental oversight, but the Green Party is expressing doubts that it will live up to its promise.

The Minister for the Environment, Nick Smith, announced today that the EPA is to be established as a Crown agent responsible to the Minister for the Environment.

“We support the establishment of a body independent of the Government to provide technical expertise, national environmental standards and independent environmental monitoring,” said Green Party spokesperson on Resource Management David Clendon.

“However, it is difficult to see how an expanded EPA will be truly independent or offer something new when it is simply merging existing functions of various Government departments, and has no significant budget.”

The exact details of the size, structure and budget of the new EPA have yet to be released. Dr Smith has said that the new EPA will be operational by 1 July 2011.

“It is very difficult to believe that any institutional reform by John Key’s Government will achieve greater environmental protection, when they’ve just sacked ECan to make it easier to irrigate despite a water crisis in Canterbury,” said Mr Clendon.

“Thus far, John Key’s Government’s track record on environmental protection has been abysmal.

“Nick Smith’s enthusiasm for ‘improved approval times for major infrastructure projects’ suggests that the EPA’s priority will be rubber stamping Government projects, regardless of their environmental consequences,” said Mr Clendon.

“While the principle of an EPA sounds good, we will wait to see how it is implemented before believing that it will deliver better environmental outcomes for New Zealand.”