Camels, MMP and Nick Smith

Neville Gibson has a piece at NBR about camels, MMP and Nick Smith’s RMA reforms:

By many accounts, the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill that will be passed by Parliament is the camel that someone once described as a horse designed by a committee.

And it will be as useless as tits on a bull as well.

Environment Minister Nick Smith blames MMP – and so he should – as minor parties exerted their leverage over specific demands in a process that has taken eight years and three terms of government.

He has to blame someone, other than himself of course. But, he is Bill’s mate so he is as protected as Murray McCully is.  

Dr Smith explains the bill has 40 changes and is the most substantial change to Resource Management Act  (RMA) since it became law 25 years ago. It also amends some five other pieces of legislation, such as the  Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.

Most of the changes are to impose national planning standards and simplify the granting of consents, eliminating thousands of pages of paperwork and introducing fast-track approvals.

Combined, these “will hugely reduce the bureaucracy and the new streamlined planning process will speed up the time it takes to write replacement plans,” Dr Smith says.

“The gains from the changes will save homeowners millions of dollars in direct costs and delays.”

I call bullshit on that. There will be few gains, if any. All the reforms do is create another bevy of bureaucrats and forms and boxes to tick. Bureaucrats never eliminate paperwork, they create new and innovative ways of making you fill in more paperwork.

So far, so good. But RMA reform has brought the worst features of political argy-bargy. The outright winner is the Maori Party, despite a last-minute attempt by David Seymour and Peter Dunne to seize an opportunity for themselves.

The Maori Party gained concessions that have raised most of the objections to the new legislation – iwi participation arrangements that Dr Smith says merely formalise existing consultation obligations, and provision for local councils to exclude themselves from national law on genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

The latter is an emotion-charged issue that brings out the worst in laws that lack scientific evidence – a fact conceded by Dr Smith as a compromise required by MMP politics.

National’s caucus aren’t happy, but they are afraid of the tyranny of Bill English and so sit there like Pavlov’s dogs.

Labour Maori MP Meka Whaitiri best summed up the position when criticising the Maori Party for embedding iwi participation arrangements that already exist.

She wants further “carve outs” such as the GMO example to allow councils to oppose oil and gas exploration, including fracking.

Some gullible councils have already gone down this path, as have some equally misguided universities that have bowed to outside pressure from groups opposed to the fossil fuel industry.

Curtailing research on the use of oil and coal, or preventing all forms of mineral exploration, is at the extreme end of Green politics. It makes no economic sense and can only result in a major drop in living standards if carried to its logical conclusion.

That, naturally, doesn’t stop its advocates from using air travel, buying imported smartphones or enjoying all the other trappings of an advanced industrialised society.

Nor has Dr Smith’s achievement failed to stem a rising tide that wants to sweep away the RMA altogether.

The RMA was a travesty that has not delivered anything to anyone except specialist lawyers who have raked in millions. Simon Upton has a lot to answer for, unfortunately the little weasel came home from Europe and Bill instantly arranged a job for him.

The Productivity Commission doesn’t have to deal with Dr Smith’s political realities and says a completely new legal regime is needed for the built and urban environments.

It has been joined by a new initiative between business groups and environmentalists (Gary Taylor’s Environmental Defence Society) to bring this to reality.

Unfortunately, the need to de-politicise the planning laws for overall national benefit is not an attribute of MMP.

The new law won’t do what it was intended to do. Mark my words, but by the time anyone realises Nick Smith and Bill English will be long gone from parliament.

 

-NBR


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