Environment Court

Time to police local government

With nobody policing Local Government, the troughing gravy train has for years been ignoring the law on many fronts and doing whatever it likes.

Not withstanding that the brass at most Councils think they know better than anyone else and Councillors are ignorant, the fact remains that Local Government is getting away with all manner of mismanagement and law breaking that will come home to roost in years to come.

Of course nobody will be held accountable, and the mess will take decades to remedy. Our economy will grind to a halt and costs will continue to rise.

It is somewhat reassuring that the Auditor General has finally woken up to the fact that Local Government’s all over New Zealand are in poor financial shape with failing or nearly failing infrastructure that hasn’t been maintained. But all she can do is make comments. She has little power to enforce compliance with her recommendations and she is not compelled by law to make Councils remedy issues.

And the there is nobody watching Councils where it concerns their performance on Resource Management matters. Sure the MFIE and MBIE exist but that’s cold comfort. The Environment Court does at times slap down Councils when they blunder or ignore the law, but only when issues are raised to them. Given the extraordinary costs to run a successful Court proceedings (lawyers and expert witnesses all costing big bucks) an appellant is forced to focus solely on their own issues.

In short there is nobody who is carrying the high ground and keeping Local Government honest.   Read more »

Wheels falling off the rail link trolley

Spain-train-crash

Auckland Transport have for some time beavered away at land acquisitions for the proposed Rail tunnel.

Word abounds that they have deliberately picked off the small land owners and those who don’t really understand the process first.

Most land owners in the path of the designated tunnel probably don’t know that the designation can be opposed and that strategically the best way to ensure Council doesn’t stiff them on price is to be aggressive about the process.

Not so the big corporates who have come out wielding big sticks covered in broken glass and nails.

Noise, vibration, trouble sleeping, turning a popular part of Auckland’s waterfront and the busy Albert St into a construction site for years, pedestrian and vehicle disruption, negative economic impacts – big-time office block and apartment owners are headed to the Environment Court to fight the $2.86 billion city rail link.

NZX listed Precinct Properties, the Stamford Residences’ Owners Corporation and Tram Lease have lodged appeals against Auckland Transport, planning the underground tunnels between Britomart and Mt Eden and using the Public Works Act to try to force property owners to either sell their surface and subterranean properties, or in Precinct’s case, open it up for the tunnels to be created under a new 30-level-plus tower and mall.

Dates are yet to be set for the court to hear those appeals.

Read more »

Dodgy Socialists Having a Sook about their Dam being Blocked

The Socialist Ratbags at the Hawkes Bay Regional Council tried to impose a rule change on the Tukituki River that would have turned it toxic.

They wanted to allow businesses to pollute the river to toxicity by not managing Nitrogen. This single nutrient management approach was found by the Board of Inquiry to be hopeless and they couldn’t work out why the ratbag scientists had changed their opinion from saying you had to manage N to that you didn’t have to manage N.

The Ruataniwha dam could be “put on ice” pending a legal challenge if strict environmental controls proposed for the Tukituki catchment are confirmed by a board of inquiry.

The same environmental controls could have a big impact on major primary sector employers in Hawke’s Bay, and cost the region jobs, the regional council was told yesterday.

A new environmental regime – setting limits on nutrient levels and river flows in the Tukituki catchment – is part of a draft decision handed down by the board of inquiry that considered the consent application for the $275 million Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme for Central Hawke’s Bay.

For those that don’t know what happened, the dodgy socialists at the HBRC wanted to piss away close to $300m of taxpayers and ratepayers money on a dam that would have benefited 150 farmers.   Read more »

Dodgy Socialist Dam gets it in the chook

The dodgy socialist dam in Central Hawkes Bay has been given a serious kick in the slats by the Board of Inquiry. The Board of Inquiry approved consents but with some stringent conditions that leave the project struggling for viability.

This is a big win for the opponents of the dam who did not want the Tukituki turned toxic by the HBRC not managing Nitrogen, and setting nutrients levels at toxicity, killing the river. Those who don’t believe it is a win for opponents should view the footage of Craig Foss and Chris Tremain arriving in the house 45 minutes late looking shaken after their pet socialist project got it in chook.

The HBRC needs to have a good long hard look at itself as it made its decisions to proceed based on the exceptionally flawed TRIM model. We have long known the TRIM model is a total jack up to let the dam proceed and the council to turn the Tukituki toxic. The Board of Inquiry appears to have came to the same conclusion we did in October last year.

The dodgy socialist dam being promoted by the dodgy Hawkes Bay Regional Council is based on a seriously flawed model that is being promoted by the ratbag council staff.

The Tukituki River Instream Model or TRIM is being used as justification for turning the Tukituki toxic. This dodgy model has the following flaws:    Read more »

Bye bye excessive development contributions

Policy Parrot says:

Awesome news my feathered friends!

This Parrot has been reservedly cagey about the chances that Minister for Local Government Chris Tremain would do much of substance to sort out the pig’s breakfast that is Local Governance in NZ. Disappointingly past governments have systematically shifted more powers onto Local Government with the intent of making central government’s role more efficient but that has occurred at the expense of local level business and development.

The property industry is typically quiet. Nobody puts their head above the parapet in case it is chopped off by the public executioner for breaching the Tall Poppy Act. So when they are drawn out to have a bitch about matters it is done cautiously and reluctantly or behind the veil of lobby groups like the Property Council or the Planning Institute.

For years however the industry has cried foul over the imposition of development contributions. The former Labour Government can be thanked for the introduction of that nasty surprise that aided local government into a LGA enabled taxing regime on new development rather than an RMA enabled regime using financial contributions. It was fairly well-known that the charges were a rort and the Environment Court had done an excellent job of deciphering the bullshit, reducing payments and making things fair and equitable.

Not so under the LGA. Council’s can make up the contributions without any necessity to consult meaningfully and with no requirement to prove the rates are fair. Income from development contributions generally vanishes into the general slush fund and is washed around to pay for whatever Council treasuries need it for on an annual basis. Lax reporting rules further enhance the ability for Councils to run amok with capital derived funding and generally not have to reveal how the ledger is balanced.   Read more »

A taniwha in the clouds?

Fresh out of luck after losing the water battle, maori bludgers are now trying their hand tilting at clouds, or rainbows or other unseen forces in order to stand over commercial organisations with their brown-mail. They’ll claim a new flying taniwha is angry anytime soon.

The government’s plan to auction 4G spectrum in September or October faces delay, with Maori claimants to spectrum rights reactivating a dormant claim to the Waitangi Tribunal by seeking an urgent hearing on it.

Pundits are picking anywhere between $200 million to $400 million for Crown coffers from the auction of airwaves freed up by the switchover from analogue to digital TV – which are suitable for the new fourth-genertion mobile networks being rolled out by Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees. A similar auction across the Tasman raised $A1.96 billion for the Australian government.    Read more »

Coney barking up wrong tree

Policy Parrot says:

There is nothing more hilarious than watching Auckland Council fret about legal advice because the advice will be worthless shit.

Today Bernard Orsman reports that Councillor Sandra Coney wants to review legal advice provided to the top Council planners. Her desire to test the lawfulness of the Unitary Plan is smart. But unsurprisingly council officers don’t want her to read it.

This Parrot says that the advice won’t be worth the paper it is written on.

This Parrot can justify said statement because years of legal proceedings such as plan changes, variations, financial contribution battles, Judicial Review’s and other legal brouhaha where Council has either lost or had it’s planning provisions substantially changed proves they are getting poor advice over which fights they can win and which they can’t. They always start the process thinking they are right and what they have drafted is vires.

For example six long years of LGAAA and Plan Change 6 appeals on the Regional Policy Statement. The end result was a clear win for opponents of Council’s planning provisions. Or heritage provisions through Plan Change 167 in Auckland City – pulverised by Remuera locals. What about the tree rules smashed to oblivion by the Property Council?

The point this Parrot is making is that Council legal advice falls short more often than it upholds a Council position with wins. Provisions do get overturned and often.  Read more »

Environment Court to close?

Policy Parrot says:

Recently this Parrot has been amused with the idle chit chat coming from members of the wig and gown fraternity where it concerns the future of the Environment Court. Apparently some from the Resource Management Sect are not happy that Chris Finlayson is casually discussing the possibility of getting rid of the Environment Court and merging it with the District Court.

Nobody knows if this is a credible discussion or merely a man thinking of ideas aloud but it has caused a flutter and some are filing their teeth to have a little fight in support of the Court. Cherish the loyalty.

The Environment Court has in the distant past a dim legacy of delay. But that was a very long time ago and in the last 5 years or so Acting Chief Judge Laurie Newhook has done much to eliminate the issues of delay so that it can be fairly said that the Court is now swift and responsive.

It is certainly clear to those who frequent the hallowed halls of justice that the process is as quick as it can be given the lack of expedient conduct by parties such as Councils and appellants who are notorious for dragging the chain whilst blaming everyone else including the Court for said delays.

This Parrot has heard that certain corporate heavy weights have been whinging to the Government about the Court process and scathing their distaste for RMA lawyers. What is particularly unusual is that these whinging suits happen to be on a list of corporates who rarely venture into the Environment Court system and for whom unfettered rights to do whatever they want is impinged by a Court process. They can’t stand the thought that a democratic nation might impose a system that upholds natural justice.    Read more »

Denniston Plateau coal mine appeal thrown out

Forest and Bird’s appeal against the Denniston Plateau coal mine has been tossed out.

If he’s true to form we can no doubt expect Nasty Norman to threaten Bathurst with an instant closure of Denniston should the Greens form a government in 2014.

Comments please Damian O’Connor – is it to be jobs for Coasters or will you be kowtowing to the Greens?

Conservationists fighting a decision to allow an Australian mining company to dig for coal on the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau have suffered a major setback today with a High Court appeal being thrown out.

The Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society appealed interim resource consent given to Bathurst Resources Limited for an 188ha open-cast mine on the plateau near Westport.

It argued that the Environment Court did not give proper consideration to the possibility of there being two open-cast coal mines simultaneously working the area when it gave Bathurst the go-ahead.  Read more »

Environment Court slaps Len’s face

Len Brown Smack faceOn Wednesday the Environment Court released a very interesting decision that is bound to have wiped the smile of Len Brown’s face today. The Herald has an article about it, but misses the important factors.

Plan Change 163 was an Auckland Council attempt to list properties in the Residential 1 and 2 zones of Auckland.

The decision is fascinating because it is highly unusual for the Court to make comments about process, time and who is to blame for delays and issues of process. Judge Smith has gone further to detail an anatomy of delay and has squarely pointed his finger at  Auckland Council with a 15 page savage ankle biting.

But first the background.

Auckland Council recently courted Government officials and ministers in an attempt to seek legislative change to benefit a fast track process on the Unitary Plan that would give effect to the plan on notification.

In argument Council justified that the process if appealed would likely take 3-6 years and so it additionally sought that appeals rights be limited to matters of law – which is a blatant attempt to stop the Environment Court from interfering with the plan it feels is ‘perfecto’.

To back its position, the Council foolishly fingered the Court for delays in past plan changes stating that the Court is the reason things take so long.  Read more »