by Eugenie Sage
Monday saw the start of the Government’s rapid fire roadshow on its proposals to weaken the RMA and allow increased exploitation of our water. I’ve previously covered some of the Minister’s attempt to shut down debate on the proposals. I just wanted to point out that that the timing of consultation meetings is important. If you are going to take a team of people around the country delivering your pitch and “engaging” in consultation why not hold a day and an evening meeting. If you hold basically all your meetings during the day (as the Government is doing with only five of 28 meetings happening outside of work hours) only people who are able to make the meetings will be heard. I imagine that there will be a few developers, irrigators and corporate interests for which this time suits. For many people, evenings might work better.
The Government has called the RMA changes the largest shakeup of environmental legislation in a generation yet they are only allowing five weeks for the public to have a say on the proposals which will form the basis of the next bill to change the Act. And people are expected to comment at the same time on the changes to water management within four weeks. As the chair of Southland Regional Council has said the water report says a lot about collaboration but the Government is not showing that spirit in the 20 working days it has allowed for submissions.
A member of the public who attended the first meeting in Dunedin emailed us to say,
“officials expressed their surprise at the turnout (est. 100 people) which exceeded their number of handouts; despite little advance notice of the meeting. All of the 20 or more questions from the public were critical of aspects of the proposed changes and showed the audience were well-informed and many were annoyed by the poor consultation process.”
If the Government was really interested in what all New Zealanders have to say it would make more effort with the consultation, give people more time, and do it properly.