NZCSET – mischievous or sensible?Richard Treadgold | November 19, 2012
The NZ Climate Science Coalition’s opponents have attacked it for creating a Trust (the NZ Climate Science Education Trust, NZCSET) for the sole purpose of unfairly (perhaps, in the opinion of some, unlawfully) avoiding costs if they lost the court case against NIWA.
However, there are sensible reasons for creating a legal entity to take someone to court. One of the first questions a judge asks is “who are the parties?” If that simple question cannot be answered by naming a legal entity the case doesn’t get off the ground and the judge just gets annoyed.
So, although the NZCSC did the scientific work in challenging NIWA’s techniques, it couldn’t take the court proceedings. An unincorporated association cannot sue or be sued, as it has no legal existence separate from its multifarious members.
This may surprise some people, but the Coalition laboured mightily to avoid Court proceedings, and it was partly for that reason. For example, it sought copies of documents under the Official Information Act. Nothing came back.
It wrote formally to the Chairman of NIWA on no less than six occasions urging an investigation and offering to meet. Nothing happened.
It prepared lengthy and detailed formal documents (the Audit and the Critique) and forwarded them to both the Chairman and the legal advisers of NIWA, seeking reactions. But nothing happened.
After establishing that NIWA had no record of the 7SS, the Coalition secured an undertaking from the Hon Dr Wayne Mapp that NIWA would undertake a full peer-reviewed analysis to document the series.
Still nothing happened.
It was obvious that court action would be necessary to make progress. Which meant we had to incorporate some form of legal entity.
The Coalition therefore sponsored the formation of a charitable trust with the broad purpose of educating the New Zealand public on aspects of climate change science and policy.
Included within that broader purpose was resolution of the disputed temperature record. As these objectives were solely in the public interest, with no element of self-interest or profit, a charity was the obvious form to adopt. It was also a suitable vehicle for the acceptance of donations from interested supporters.
So, you see there was no nefarious purpose behind the Trust. There was no trickery or deception in promulgating it — just an honest attempt to force a response from NIWA to the suggestion that there were errors in the preparation of the national temperature record.
But NIWA brought a team of expensive QCs against our homespun endeavour and so far they’ve avoided giving straight answers.
For example, they say they have no duty to keep records, to employ the best scientific techniques, to pursue excellence or even, astonishingly, to produce a national temperature record.
Nobody predicted that – especially their many supporters. They must have been gobsmacked.
Without the court case, New Zealand would never have discovered these important facts about our premier, publicly-funded, environmental organisation. Thank heaven for the legal system!