Government to push through planning law changes

By Kevin Taylor

The Government wants its controversial changes to planning law passed before the election.

Parliament starts back next week for the last session before it is dissolved for the election campaign.

Michael Cullen, Finance Minister and Leader of the House, said in answer to questions after a speech to the Wellington District Law Society this week that he wanted Budget-related legislation and amendments to the Resource Management Act passed before the House finishes.

A spokeswoman said yesterday that Dr Cullen had no specific projects in mind that were connected to the desire to pass the amendments to the planning law.

The amendments, reported back last month with extensive changes by a select committee, arose from a review of the act started early last year as state-owned Meridian Energy canned its Project Aqua power scheme on the lower Waitaki River.

Proposed changes include greater powers for the environment minister to "call-in" major projects for non-local decision-making.

United Future will support the bill's passage. MP Larry Baldock said the party was keen to have the amendments passed before the House dissolves.

National's environment spokesman, Nick Smith, said Labour's intention to pass the bill was "window-dressing" to try to convince voters they had fixed its problems, when they had not.

The bill was a weak effort to resolve infrastructure problems and key parts of it would actually make matters worse.

"The bill has been roundly condemned across the political spectrum because it is a piecemeal response to a law that requires far more substantive reform."

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