In a recent media interview, Berry Simons' Senior Partner Simon Berry expressed concern that the Minister for the Environment is now making the final decision on applications to the Environmental Legal Assistance (ELA) Fund.
The ELA Fund was established to assist not-for-profit groups such as iwi / hapū, incorporated societies, and community groups to participate in Environment Court and Board of Inquiry processes.
Such decisions are made on the recommendation of an independent panel and, until the delegation was revoked in July this year, were made by the Chief Executive of the Ministry for the Environment.
Mr Berry says this decision needs to be seen in the broader context of his firm's concerns expressed in their recent paper about the shortcomings of the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. "What is the rationale for the Minister making this decision rather than an independent official? It clearly represents the continued aggregation of power by the Minister for the Environment (whoever that may be) and, depending on how the power is exercised, a potential further erosion of access to justice in the RMA context.”