Marine Reserve, Akaroa Harbour—High Court Decision
Mr SPEAKER: I have received a letter from Gareth Hughes seeking to debate under Standing Order 386 the quashing by the High Court of the Minister of Conservation’s decision to decline the proposal for a marine reserve in Akaroa Harbour. There is no ministerial responsibility for the decision of the High Court requiring that the Minister’s decision be reconsidered. As that reconsideration has not yet happened, there is no particular case of recent occurrence that can be raised today. The application is therefore declined.
GARETH HUGHES (Green)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The High Court has now ruled that the Minister must consider—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. It seems the member wishes to argue with the Speaker’s ruling. That is not a point of order. The matter was considered properly under the Standing Orders of the House and the application simply does not meet the requirements of the Standing Orders of the House, and that is the end of the matter.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you just explain, then, what this means for the other issue of urgent debate that has been ongoing in this House, which is vis-à-vis the Crafar decision. We did not get an urgent debate while you were away because there is a judicial review that has gone to the High Court. Does this mean that when that comes back from the High Court, if the court were to overturn the Minister’s decision again, you would take a similar approach that we could not have an urgent debate at that point?
Mr SPEAKER: I think the important issue that members need to be clear about is that the House cannot debate under this Standing Order a decision of the court, because that is not a matter of recent occurrence involving ministerial responsibility; that is a decision of the court. In the most recent case the member refers to, in respect of the Crafar farms, the reason why that one was declined was that that matter was still in front of the court. Once the Minister makes a further decision on this, as long as it is not back in front of the court again, it is theoretically possible that that could meet the requirements of the Standing Orders, as long as it also met requirements in terms of the significance of the issue to set aside the business of the House to debate that issue. So it is a matter of thinking through clearly what is happening. In this case the court has made a decision. That is not a matter of particular occurrence involving a Minister. The Minister may well make a decision, and if that does not go back to the court, then theoretically that would be the time when this matter could be debated, if it met the rest of the requirements of the Standing Order in respect of significance, as well.
GARETH HUGHES (Green)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are quite right under Speakers’ rulings 186/4 that a matter of the court cannot be considered under an urgent debate. But I seek your advice, because there is now no mechanism by which the Minister will announce she will make a decision. As I understand it, and as the High Court understands it, this ruling now means the Minister must make a decision. I put it to you this is a matter of urgency—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Standing Orders are very clear on this. As I have explained to the member, if the Minister does make a further decision on this, as I presume she may have to, that then may be a particular matter of recent occurrence. That would meet that requirement of the Standing Order. This does not, because this is a decision of the court. Once the Minister makes a decision, that then theoretically could meet the requirements of the Standing Order. I am not guaranteeing it would, because the Standing Order also requires the matter to be of sufficient importance to set aside the business of this House for an immediate debate. It has to be a very, very significant issue to meet that test in the Standing Order. That would be the relevant time for the matter to be reconsidered.