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Wilkinson appointment wrong in principle

The appointment of former Conservation Minister Hon Kate Wilkinson as an Environment Commissioner is wrong in principle, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker.

“The doctrine of separation of powers requires judicial processes to remain separate and independent from the legislature for important reasons. Citizens need confidence that the law will be, and will appear to be, applied impartially.

“Kate Wilkinson left Parliament less than a year ago. While it is theoretically possible for someone to leave politics and pursue another career that leads to a judicial role, this appointment comes far too soon for there to be clear air between the two roles.

“This appointment undermines the separation of powers and undermines the reputation of our independent judiciary. This is all the more so when Hon Wilkinson was a Minister in the ruling government last term.

“Hon Wilkinson was, amongst other roles, Minister of Conservation. As was her right, she advocated for greater commercial use of the conservation estate, oversaw the continuing decline in the advocacy functions of the Department of Conservation and was part of a government that criticised the environmental protections and processes under the Resource Management Act.

“Hon Wilkinson will be hearing cases where the Crown is itself a party. Those cases will also be considering changes to the RMA her Government made.

“Hon Chris Finlayson consults me in respect of judicial appointments to the High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court. While the same convention does not apply to District Court appointments, I am surprised by this appointment.

“While I accept Hon Wilkinson is a person of integrity, this appointment is wrong in principle and undermines the reputation of our Courts and judicial system,” says David Parker.