MP accepts Stop the Tunnel petition
Acting Prime Minister Bill English was missing in action on the steps of Parliament yesterday after previously agreeing to accept a petition from the Stop the Tunnel Glenorchy group.
However, the MP for Clutha Southland's absence did not stop the group from getting its 25,000-signature petition heard in the House of Representatives and allocated to the local government and environment select committee.
The delegation of Glenorchy residents, comprising Trish Fraser, Leslie van Gelder and Kate Scott, was greeted by Invercargill MP Eric Roy, a late substitute for Mr English, and a group of Green and Labour MPs showing their opposition to the Milford Dart Tunnel.
"We were told Mr English had been called away on official business," Ms Fraser said.
"We did have an arrangement with Mr English so it was disappointing he could not accept the petition as our local MP."
The group said its disappointment was tempered by news of the petition's progress. "We came to Wellington to get the petition before a select committee and we have achieved that purpose."
They had met several MPs but not Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Environment Minister Amy Adams..
The group hoped that getting the petition before a select committee would be the start of a process to encourage Ms Wilkinson to decline the tunnel concession, Ms Fraser said.
Mr Roy said Mr English had been "captured" by other events and he had been happy to fill his shoes.
"It's not the first time we have helped each other out as neighbouring MPs and the key thing was to get the petition lodged in the House before the closure of announcements."
A spokesman for Mr English said he had been working with the petition organisers.
Mr English had agreed to accept the petition as local MP but he was also deputy prime minister and finance minister and needed to ensure the Government was seen to be objective and following the proper process, he said.
This would have been made difficult by appearing yesterday morning with other MPs whose views about the proposal were well known, he said.
Mr English met the petition organisers later in the day.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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