The happs in the RMA Select Committee

After two 12-hour marathon days of submissions, last week and yesterday, it looks like the National-led Government’s attempt to “simplify and streamline” the Resource Management Act – New Zealand’s primary environmental protection law – by removing the “non-complying” consent category is full of holes and sinking fast.

Green Co-Leader and MP on the Select Committee, Russel Norman, said yesterday that councils are up in arms about this amendment, which will involve huge costs for rate-payers. The “non-complying” category is used for activities that are not prohibited but need to be highly restricted. Removing this category and will force councils to review their district plans – this would cost Auckland rate-payers alone millions of dollars. It will also require costly litigation in the Environment Court to test the new boundaries of consent categories which have been defined by years of case-law.

The Herald today reports that “unlikely allies” are attacking the Government’s reforms from all sides. Numerous other submissions have pointed out that other changes will cause cost and confusion, rather than streamline and simplify:

  • ridiculous changes to tree protection rules that will result in thousands and thousands of trees to Council plans;
  • clumsy reversal of notification criteria that will reset the legal precedent and invite lots of court time to work out what the ambiguous amendment means;
  • unreasonable restrictions on appeal rights that will result in more challenges at council hearings and clog up the Environment Court with hearings to seek leave.

Back at the Auckland hearings, even Rodney District Council, led by mayor and former ACT MP Penny Webster, opposed the “non-complying” amendment. Ironically, Penny is on the Technical Advisory Group for RMA reform that suggested the amendment in the first place! Do I detect a change of heart, or perhaps reality overriding ideology?

The glum and pale faces of the National MPs on the Select Committee suggest they may also be facing a reality-check. Will they do what’s right for New Zealand, or will they be whipped into line by the Minister?

15 Comments Posted

  1. macro, there is a huge difference between your original sentence, which I disagreed with, and the last sentence in your last comment, which I agree with.

    “Whenever has truth and logic and democratic process been of been of significance to this crowd?”

    The previous government came across as polished professionals when it came to staying in power, the current lot seem to have modelled themselves on The Goodies or Dad’s Army.

    In the areas where I had direct involvement, the previous government definitely new the significance of appearing to respect truth and logic and democratic process even though they weren’t actually practicing those things. Frogblog provided numerous examples from the environmental arena where the Greens were experiencing exactly that same behaviour.

    Social policy does seem to be one area where the Previous government was genuinely into truth and logic and democratic process.

  2. “this crowd?” I presume you mean NZ politicians in general. Although at least the last lot put some effort into acting like they hadn’t written the select committee’s report before they called for submissions.
    No Kevyn I do not mean NZ politicians in general. I am referring specifically to the current block of lawmakers in NACT and MP and UF – although the latter two have been known to listen to others points of view in the past – but are now very much tainted by their association with NACT. If you were to say that the previous govt never listened to others, nor made changes to draft legislation under the committee process – you would be drawing a very long bow indeed.

  3. I’m not that experienced but I think the key is to make your points clearly and concisely. Do NOT rabbit on about off-topic stuff and focus on exactly what you want changed, and what you would want it changed to.

    Once I’ve written up a bit more on what I’m going to specifically talk about when I have my time slot, I’ll post it here if you want some guidance.

    At the moment I’m busy formulating what evidence I’m going to give in support of my submission on the draft Auckland Transport Plan 2009-2019 so it’s not so damn roads-centric.

    Geez it’s a busy life!

  4. I’ve read this after reading frog’s more recent post, and now I’m thinking, what am I in for when the circus gets back to Welli!

    Tips for the fainthearted from the experienced submitters? 😉

  5. Thanks Valis. I was pretty hacked off at losing my opportunity to be heard. Teleconferencing isn’t quite the same as a hearing in person, but I guess it’s better than nothing.

  6. What this indicates is that John Key and his mates have moaned for nine years about the RMA and have never actually read it, and still don’t understand it.

  7. The Greens, Westfield, Winstones, Trustpower, Transpower, Transit, Ontrack, most community groups and most local authorities. That seems to be pretty much unanimous.

  8. A few things here:

    ridiculous changes to tree protection rules that will result in thousands and thousands of trees to Council plans

    I guess you mean thousands and thousands of trees will have to be individually scheduled in council plans. Well that’s what we would hope for, the other option is that most trees won’t be individually scheduled and will therefore have no protection. I can hear the chainsaws now.

    Great to hear that some of the changes are getting criticised to death. Removing non-complying activity status is stupid – it is what is generally used to protect heritage buildings. Do we want the demolition of our best heritage to become merely “discretionary”?

    If the government felt there were too many activity statuses then they should get rid of “Controlled Activities”. These are the stupidest things ever – consent is required but it can’t be turned down, only conditions can be applied. So basically council must take the RMA and the District Plan into account when assessing controlled activities, but then it must ignore all that and grant the application. It can only apply conditions, and those conditions are invariably pretty limited in their scope. Controlled activities could easily be replaced by permitted activities with development controls. Or, if it’s too complex for that, restricted discretionary activities.

    I have thread-jacked a couple of times before to point this out, but it does really concern me that I was not contacted about speaking to the select committee on this issue. I made a submission on this bill and asked to be heard, yet I was not contacted about giving my evidence – either in person or via teleconferencing. I have contacted parliament and now have set up a time to talk over the phone, but overall I think it’s pretty unacceptable. I certainly doubt I would have been contacted and given the option for teleconferencing if I had not complained. I am concerned about a lot of people out there in that position.

    It all sounds very rushed. With so many submissions on this bill why are there so few days for them to be heard?

  9. “this crowd?” I presume you mean NZ politicians in general. Although at least the last lot put some effort into acting like they hadn’t written the select committee’s report before they called for submissions.

  10. They will be whipped into line! You can rest assured on that. Whenever has truth and logic and democratic process been of been of significance to this crowd?
    Peter – what have you been on??

  11. PM Key NZ Government for a decade
    produce an Act to replace the RMS, not ammend it.
    We need to bury old Geoff Palmer deep,
    he was a disaster for NZ,
    pull finger out NZ Govt
    replace this RMA disaster in its entirety,
    social legislation is different from Environmental legislation,
    but before we bury him,lets hang geoff palmer,

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