Flyover timetable 'ridiculously tight'

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 15:01 20/01/2014

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The Basin Reserve flyover board of inquiry has been criticised for giving submitters one working day to look over and approve a detailed hearing schedule.

A board of inquiry is due to start public hearings on the $90m roading project on February 3, and is due to make a decision at the end of May.

Ohariu MP Peter Dunne described the timeframes as ''ridiculously tight'' and said that Environment minister Amy Adams had twice rejected a suggestion the deadline for the inquiry be extended.

''[Her response] was that the timeframe that had been established was fair and reasonable, and I just don't accept that. For a major project of this type where there's such division, a pragmatic solution ... to allow people more time to make their case is reasonable.''

In response to residents' and lobby groups requests in December, the start date for the hearings was delayed by one week to allow them more time to prepare their submissions.

Mr Dunne said, just like the Ruataniwha Dam inquiry, the process would likely run over its deadlines.

He would keep pressure on Ms Adams to extend the timeframe to July 1, he said.

''Whatever one's view, this is too important of an issue to let slip through quietly.''

Save The Basin campaigner Tim Jones said online that the nine-month timetable had rendered the process ''dangerously close to farce''.

He said that late on Friday afternoon the group was emailed a draft hearing schedule which the group had to check over and return with any required changes by 5pm on Tuesday.

Mr Jones said the one working day deadline following a long weekend showed ''contempt'' for submitters.

"Such absurd and unrealistic deadlines raise serious questions about any notion of this Board of Inquiry conducting a fair, unbiased and objective hearing process,'' he wrote in a blog post.

Environmental Protection Authority board chairwoman Kerry Prendergast said any concerns about the statutory nine-month timeframe needed to be taken up with the board of inquiry chairperson or the minister.

She said it was likely the deadline given to submitters to approve or request changes to the hearing schedule was set due to practicalities.

''I think there are a couple of hundred submitters, it's a logistical nightmare ... I do think it's enough time ... if you can make it, great, if you can't, we'll try to find you a different time.''

Minister Amy Adams was nt available for comment.

 

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- The Dominion Post

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