Rodney Hide asks why everyone can’t be free of pesky laws holding up progress

Rodney Hide looks at the rank hypocrisy of a government willing to use urgency to suspend some laws, but only for their pet projects. He asks why every can’t be free of pesky laws holding up progress, rather than just the Christ Church Cathedral rebuild.

What does the government do when it wants to build with “urgency and momentum?” Why, it gives itself the power to suspend the Resource Management Act, the Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga Act, almost every other act, the district plan, the regional plan and all bylaws, all by stroke of ministerial pen. Oh, and does so under “urgency.”

That’s what the Christ Church Cathedral Reinstatement Bill does. It’s an extraordinary bill. I am not against it. Far from it, I just want consistency.

The rest of us would like to build with “urgency and momentum” too but mad laws and council regulations block and shackle us. Not for us the power to suspend laws and regulations should they prove too onerous.

The extent of the bill’s reach is exemplified by the exclusionary conditions in clause 11, “an order must not … grant an exemption from or modify a requirement or restriction imposed by the Bill of Rights 1688.” It’s scary that specific provision is made to avoid the minister signing away rights we have enjoyed for more than 300 years.

Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods explained on first reading that the bill’s purpose was to “facilitate” the cathedral’s rebuild, to ensure it is not “unnecessarily delayed” and to provide “certainty.” The bill passed its first reading on Tuesday last week without dissent. Submissions closed last Sunday. The bill was open for submissions for just four working days.

The bill is an acknowledgement by central government, Parliament, local government and the bureaucracy that the building and planning laws don’t work.

Even with its mighty power and resources, the state finds these laws and processes insurmountable.It must suspend them. What chance then, the rest of us?

We’ve got the house to do up, a building to freshen up and another to topple and rebuild. We are expected to comply with laws and edicts when the government readily accepts that for the No 1 heritage building in Christchurch it’s not possible to do so even with the full backing and resources of the state.

Among all the parliamentary backslapping and group hugs about getting Christchurch going there didn’t appear to be a moment’s reflection on what the laws to be suspended are doing to the rest of us and how they might be impinging on, oh, I don’t know, the Christchurch rebuild, affordable housing, jobs and productivity, heritage protection, investment, business growth, etcetera.

The irony of Parliament subjecting every citizen to onerous burden but exempting a church property trust to provide “urgency and momentum” is breathtaking.

I am too late for a submission but it would be a simple one: It’s a good start but please don’t restrict the application of the bill to just the cathedral and please do away with the need for the minister’s signature.

A very concise and brilliant piece of writing from Rodney.




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