350 Aotearoa is calling the Environment Select Committee’s decision to allow oral submissions from just 40% of individual, unique submitters who asked to speak to the committee ‘a disgraceful blight to democracy’.

Of the 27,000 people who submitted on the Fast-track Approvals Bill and 2,900 requests to speak to the committee, the Environment Select Committee has decided to hear submissions from just 1,100 submitters. Half of these will be organisations, and half will be members of the public. The Committee is creating a ballot to randomly select which submitters get to submit, by assigning each submitter a number. This ballot system will leave over 1800 unique submitters unable to make an oral submission.

350 Aotearoa campaigner Adam Currie says “This is outrageous. Democracy is not something we get by winning a ballot if we’re lucky.It is a right that should be enjoyed by every New Zealander. New Zealanders are furious about the fast-track bill which is looking to undermine democracy by taking away the community’s ability to have a voice about projects in their backyard – such as mining, motorways, or waste incinerator plants. Those citizens deserve to have their voices heard by the Select Committee. These submitters have followed the exact formal processes they were told to follow, only to have their right to orally submit snatched away from them. Upholding proper process is particularly important given the nature of the fast-track bill – which would remove democratic protections and specifically bar public notification. This select committee process was supposed to be the one opportunity the public had to be heard – yet now even this is snatched away.

“This decision demonstrates how scared the Government is of public opposition to the Fast-Track Bill. They know it’s unpopular – but we won’t stand by and let them sweep it under the rug. This week Ngāti Toa’s fast-track protest hikoi arrived at Parliament, and on June 8, thousands are coming together for a massive March for Nature. We citizens will do everything we can to fight this attack on democracy, on our climate, and on Te Tiriti.”

In addition to the restrictions on submitters via Parliament’s website, the Environment Select Committee has also decided not to hear from any individuals who used a third-party’s website (such as Greenpeace or Forest & Bird) to make personalised submissions.