Soper on Winston and the RMA reforms

Barry Soper understands the predicament that Bill English and Nick Smith has put themselves in.

Politics is all about timing. In six month’s time, chances are a bark from Winston Peters will have both contenders for the Prime Minister’s job falling in behind, panting like lapdogs, hoping to get the bone.

But at the moment he’s little more than an irritant, particularly for National who have finally this week seen the back end of the Resource Management Act reform, with help of the Maori Party.

Winston is slowly cutting into National’s support, particularly in provincial New Zealand. National knows this, they poll every week.

That’s worked Peters into a lather, saying the cumbersome RMA, that has over the years been blamed for virtually everything that’s stifled progress, gives Maori far too much power.

The politicians are in agreement on one thing, the RMA needs changing to allow us to get on with the business of living. It’s unworkable, which is hardly surprising considering it was devised by law professor Geoffrey Palmer who was far too brainy to be let loose with such an all-embracing piece of legislation.

But Peters is so incensed with what he sees as Maori taking control that he wrote to all of National’s MPs, urging them to grasp the opportunity and step back from what he describes as a “separatist abyss” before it’s too late.

If just one National MP, with an axe to grind, decides to cross the floor, then National could end up embarrassed. I can think of three or four who fit into that category…and most of them are immune to any threats.

It’s certainly an issue made for this populist politician who’s accusing the Maori elite of ramming the changes through. One of them is presumably the Maori Party’s Marama Fox who’s supporting the changes because they do give Maori a say earlier in the consent process.

Nick Smith, the minister steering the changes through, says councils will still make the final decision. But knowing how slow the consultation process can be, he’s being optimistic thinking the RMA will now work more efficiently.

I bet you can’t find anyone, other than Nick Smith, who is happy to give a council the final say on anything.

Ask property tycoon Bob Jones about how Maori involvement affected his ability to change a window in one of his Auckland high rises a few years ago. The building was within 50 metres of a designated Maori heritage site so he needed RMA approval costing $4500 and the acquiescence of 13 iwi.

One of the iwi members, obviously with an eye for the main chance, and whose iwi’s website proclaimed: “Our vision is only limited by our imagination” showed he had plenty of it.

His terms for assessing the window’s cultural impact would take him up to eight hours, he told the city planner, at a cost of $90 an hour plus travel expenses. As diplomatic as he could have been in the circumstances, Bob Jones told him to get stuffed and the window was eventually replaced.

With the latest changes, let’s hope his windows are all intact.

National are likely to face a rather nasty and brutal third party campaign over this. I can feel it. Winston only needs to shave 5% off of National and he is in?the box seat.


– NZ Herald