Date: 20 February 2009 Source: Office of the Minister of Conservation
The Department of Conservation needs to ensure a greater degree of transparency in agreements reached over resource consents, Acting Conservation Minister Nick Smith says.
Dr Smith today released the report from DOC on the settlement of conservation issues in the Hayes wind farm application.
"DOC has a difficult task in balancing its job as an advocate for conservation while recognising the quite legitimate Government objectives of increasing renewable energy supplies and building infrastructure.
"However, I do not believe DOC was sufficiently transparent in its involvement with Meridian Energy over Project Hayes by simply releasing the agreement when requested under the Official Information Act. A more proactive approach is required where the public is notified when an agreement is reached.
"The Whole of Government approach with regards to the Hayes wind farm was entirely appropriate as it is a project of national importance. It makes no sense for the taxpayer to pay for different lawyers representing different parts of the Government arguing different sides of the debate in the Environment Court.
"I have sought assurances that where a financial contribution is part of an agreement that these are spent mitigating the environmental effects of that proposal. I am satisfied that this is the case with respect to Project Hayes. I have asked the department to ensure its systems are robust with regard to other agreements.
"I am confident that DOC has learnt lessons from the public's reaction to its deal with Meridian over Project Hayes."