“ACT cannot support the Government’s Severe Weather Emergency Response Bill through first reading. In its current form it is Henry VIII legislation that gives Ministers enormous powers unrelated to cyclone recovery,” says ACT’s Environment and Infrastructure spokesperson Simon Court.

“The bill is being passed through urgency today. It is a power grab that gives the Minister the ability to override any act they please while masquerading as cyclone recovery legislation.

“It allows a Minister to simply change legislation as it sees fit. The only check and balance is a panel review that must be completed in three days and doesn’t require input from local government, local industry, engineers or experts in infrastructure.

“There is nothing in the bill to ensure the Minister’s actions are related to cyclone recovery, the changes just have to take place in the regions’ affected.

“People living in Auckland, Northland, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne would essentially be at the mercy of a Minister who could do whatever they want without consultation. The legislation needs to be amended so that it can only be used for situations that are directly related to cyclone recovery, not any situation the Minister of the day feels like using it for.

“These regions need support, but this isn’t it. A local response needs to take precedence and the Government’s job should be to limit intervention and cut red tape and regulations that hinder this.

“Labour has form when it comes to passing legislation that is overreaching and containing unrelated objectives under the guise of a crisis. Remember the COVID-19 emergency fund? It ended up being a slush fund to spend on things that had nothing to do with COVID-19 like school lunches, ballet events and museum exhibitions.

“There are claims this legislation is similar to Christchurch and Kaikoura emergency acts that circumvented the RMA, but it is far more powerful and far-reaching in the authority it gives to Ministers.

“ACT suggested removing RMA barriers in our cyclone recovery policy document released three weeks ago. This legislation should focus on that principle without giving unbridled powers to Ministers until 2028.

“ACT hopes that when the bill goes to Select Committee it will be fixed. The Government needs to help cyclone-affected communities, it doesn’t need to give itself carte blanche to change the law as it pleases in the process.”

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