MP seeking advice before giving view

Penny Simmonds. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Penny Simmonds. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Environment Minister Penny Simmonds has asked to meet other ministers to discuss matters at the Otago Regional Council.

The council disregarded her advice and earlier this year decided on an October 31 notification date for its contentious land and water plan.

Ms Simmonds, along with several other ministers, had called on the council to await resource management changes signalled by the government.

The council’s decision not to wait triggered a requirement, from Ms Simmonds, for the council to report to her the "costs, benefits and implications" of the early notification date.

The council provided her with that report in the middle of last month, but the minister has had little to say on the matter since.

Ms Simmonds had some "initial questions" after receiving the council’s report last month, a spokeswoman said.

"The minister has received the report and initial advice from officials", the spokeswoman said. "She has asked to meet with other ministers to discuss, given the overlap between portfolios."

The minister had yet to determine her view on the matter, she said.

"Once the minister has received and reviewed further advice from officials, we will be able to outline the next steps, including any potential engagement with Otago Regional Council."

At least one other minister already appears to be aware of the matter.

This month, in a speech in the House, Resources Minister Shane Jones said the Otago council had been "captured ... by a small group who continue to frustrate the ambitions, democratically mandated, of our government".

Those comments drew a mixed reaction from councillors: some welcomed the comments, others questioned them.

Cr Gary Kelliher said he hoped Mr Jones’ words would be followed by a direction from Ms Simmonds "to be more respectful of the hardworking ratepayers across our region".

Cr Elliot Weir said at face value the comments were "equal parts deeply concerning and completely meaningless".