Some Controversy Over Non-Controversial Bill

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 — 5:53 PM

A supposedly non-controversial bill on reserve lands managed to continue to cause controversy as it moved through its committee stage.

After Question Time and the General Debate, MPs returned to the committee stage of the Reserves and Other Lands Disposal Bill, which was introduced in 2008 and was reported back from select committee in 2009.

The usually non-controversial omnibus bill dealing with technical reserves and other land title issues managed to get a few people’s backs up.

These included the classification of land in Albert Park and its use for an art gallery.

The select committee expressed disquiet at Parliament being drawn into the arguments over the move, but the technical land title changes would proceed as Land Information Minister Louise Upston said it did not retrospectively validate any actions. No validation was necessary and the bill merely made the management of the land more simple and less costly

Ms Upston said she would be moving Government amendments removing changes made by select committee concerning a Northland reserve being transferred to a business.

One of her predecessors Maurice Williamson said the Government did not agree with the insertion of the issue in the bill.

These clauses relate to an area of esplanade reserve at Opua. They would allow the local authority to grant easements, which would effectively allow certain commercial related activities to be conducted on the reserve.

Mr Williamson said at the time the clauses were not appropriate for a Government Bill, as they breach Parliamentary convention by conferring a private benefit to an identifiable individual.

He said because the matter was first raised during public submissions on the Bill, the public has been given no opportunity to comment on what is proposed for the reserve. “In effect, Parliament is being asked to authorise a proposal that had not received the usual public scrutiny when the House considers a Bill. Proceeding with the three clauses could set an unwelcome precedent”.

In the second reading debate Labour’s Damien O’Connor (the only remaining MP to sit on the select committee who remains in Parliament) outlined the debate over the Northland issue which had spanned many decades and concerned the use of reserve land by a boat business.

NZ First opposed the bill saying the passage of time had made it a mess. They argued it should be withdrawn or sent back to select committee.

They were unsuccessful in their requests and the bill was reported with the Government’s amendments included by 109 to 12 with NZ First opposed.

MPs began the committee stage of the Standards and Accreditation Bill.
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