Assurances by the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice that the Environment Court will not be closed have been welcomed by the New Zealand Law Society.
“We appreciate the definitive assurances which both Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Judith Collins have given,” says the convenor of the Law Society’s Environmental Law Committee, Margo Perpick.
“Having a specialist stand-alone Environment Court is crucial for several reasons. The Court is necessary to ensure the sustainable management of our country's resources. Achieving that function requires the range of expertise which this specialist Court has developed. Members of the Court include engineers, economists, planners and Maori cultural experts, as well as experienced environmental lawyers. That broad range of expertise enables the Court to fairly determine complex environmental issues.
"The cases which the Environment Court deals with generally affect a much wider section of our society than the parties before the Court. These cases deal with shared resources such as water, air and soil. Our entire population benefits from ensuring that the quality of our environment is maintained and enhanced.
"This has also been an area of major change in the law, with more to come. Keeping a specialist court means the changes will be interpreted and developed by experienced judges and environmental lawyers.”
Ms Perpick says the Environment Court has served New Zealand well and environmental lawyers around the country are greatly relieved at the firm denials of closure.
“It would also be useful if any plans to change Environment Court processes or jurisdiction are disclosed quickly,” she says.