21 May 2023

Petition against new Taranaki bypass held up by court action

1:21 pm on 21 May 2023
NZTA has $130 million of work scheduled for the Awakino area which will include bypassing the Mt Messenger tunnel.

NZTA has $130 million of work scheduled for the Awakino area which will include bypassing the Mt Messenger tunnel. Photo: Rob Tucker/VT

Parliament has put on hold its consideration of a petition seeking to halt construction of the $280 million Mt Messenger bypass in Taranaki.

ACT list MP Nicole McKee presented the petition with more than 18,000 signatures to Parliament in November, despite her party supporting the project.

It calls for construction of the bypass on State Highway 3 - which will destroy about 30 hectares of native bush - to be halted and for Waka Kotahi to reconsider its route.

In a letter sent on Friday, Petitions Committee chairperson Jacqui Dean said it had come to its attention that matters dealing with bypass were before the Environment Court.

"Petitions cannot be accepted if their subject matter is currently before a court or tribunal. Although the House has already accepted your petition, in our view, we cannot consider your petition until it is no longer before the courts. Since that is the case, we intend to pause our consideration of your petition for the time being."

"We understand you may be disappointed by this delay. We would like to assure you that we will resume consideration as promptly as possible once the matter is no longer before the courts."

Petition organiser Marie Gibbs believed the subject of the petition and the Environment Court case were separate issues.

"The court proceeding in the Environment Court is a Public Works Act proceeding. It's to do with taking land off the Pascoe farm, so while it is in relation to Mt Messenger we see it as not the same issue that the Petitions Committee is being asked to consider.

"We don't see that the Petitions Committee would be cutting across any jurisdiction of the court or anything like that."

Mt Messenger bypass protester Marie Gibbs.

Marie Gibbs. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Gibbs said the petition was about protecting the old growth forest and getting Waka Kotahi to reconsider its decision-making.

She was happy enough to abide by the committee's decision given that it would reconsider the petition when the court case was over.

As yet there was no hearing date set for the Environment Court case, in which opponents of the bypass were fighting a notice to take land for construction of the project under the Public Works Act.

A parallel case was also going through High Court, where opponents of the bypass have asked for a judicial review of the ministerial sign-off of that Public Works Act land take notice.

Gibbs said if that was successful, there would be no need for the Environment Court hearing.

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