New Forest & Bird proceedings to be defended

In May this year Environment Canterbury received a new legal claim from Forest & Bird relating to water zone committees. The claim is against both the Auditor-General and Environment Canterbury. It follows unsuccessful action Forest & Bird started a year ago. 

Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said the regional council would again defend the proceedings and last week filed its statement of defense. “We are frustrated at continually needing to divert resources to fund legal costs when they would be better spent on important environmental work in the region,” he said.

About the claim

The claim relates to exemptions the Auditor-General has issued for eight years for members of water zone committees, which are joint committees of Environment Canterbury and Canterbury’s territorial councils, where committee members may have conflicts of interest in the zone committee's work.  

“The claim is a challenge to zone committee processes, in this instance relating to the Hurunui Waiau Zone Committee’s discussions about minimum flows,” Mr. Bayfield said.

“Forest & Bird was unsuccessful in litigation it brought last year, also challenging the processes around minimum flows in the Hurunui Waiau zone.  This latest challenge appears to be another attack on the same processes, but using different legal grounds.”

Discussions leading to recommendations

The Hurunui Zone Committee’s discussions on this topic will lead to recommendations (not decisions) to Environment Canterbury’s Council to help implement Canterbury Water Management Strategy targets.    

“We strongly believe that the collaborative process that brings many issues to the table as exemplified by zone committees results in better environmental outcomes for their communities,” Bill Bayfield concluded. 

The case will be heard in the High Court in Wellington on 2 September 2019. Environment Canterbury will not make any further statements until then.