Labour laughs while Taranaki dies

Photoshopped image credit: Pixy

The government thinks we are all a bunch of ignorant chumps and let’s face it, for the most part… we are exactly that.

The truth is that the average New Zealander does not have a clue about the way a select committee works.

Stuff ?reported on this matter on October 11th. There is important information here that those who oppose the proposed oil and gas ban need to be aware of. It seems the process is not being conducted objectively.quote.

The Crown Minerals (Petroleum) Amendment Bill, recently introduced by the Government, will stop future oil and gas exploration in the offshore Taranaki region. end quote

Let us be clear about this. This bill will stop any future offshore oil and gas exploration permits being issued in the Taranaki region. quote.

The Government says that this an essential part of the transition away from an economy based on fossil fuels that largely contribute to climate change. Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials, meanwhile, have estimated?this legislation could result in New Zealand forgoing billions of dollars in taxes and royalties. While the Government disputes these figures, they are another reason to think that the Crown Minerals Bill is a measure of signal importance.end quote.

Unfortunately for the country, there is no transitional plan for what alternative energy supply will replace gas, and as we have already discussed, current gas resources are limited and already under strain.

There is currently an outage at the Pohokura gas field (the biggest supplier) and hydro lake levels are much lower than expected at this time of year. Also, as we know, Genesis has already announced it may need to import coal for Huntly to keep up with demand, due to the current limitation on gas supply. quote.

The bill is being driven through Parliament in a hasty way that appears designed to minimise the scrutiny to which it will be subject. This is something we ought to be concerned about, regardless of whether we believe that ending offshore drilling is a necessary measure or a wasted opportunity. end quote.

It was always meant to be a ‘captain’s call’ but the implications for the future of energy in New Zealand are very serious indeed.??quote.

The enactment of legislation is an involved process. Perhaps its most important component is the scrutiny of bills by parliamentary select committees. These are groups of MPs, drawn from the various political parties in rough proportion to their strength in the House of Representatives, who specialise in studying legislation dealing with specific kinds of issues.

When studying bills, select committees usually call for and receive submissions from the public. This is an opportunity for those?affected by the legislation to explain what the bill’s impact on them would be, and how, in their view, the bill might be improved. At its best, this process makes for better laws, and gives those affected a real sense of having been listened to even if they disagree with the MPs’ final decisions.

But the process being followed with the Crown Minerals Bill is not the best; far from it. First, it is rushed. Instead of the usual six-month timeframe, there is only a month allowed for select committee scrutiny of the bill. Those wishing to make submissions to the committee have been given only two weeks to do so. This too is much less than is usual, and probably not enough to draft submissions that would be useful to the committee. end quote.

However, as the matter is so critically important to New Zealand, 2,283 submissions were lodged in that 2 week period, which does not include ‘form’ submissions. There were well informed and robust submissions made in opposition to the bill from many quarters but is anyone listening to those who understand the dangers to New Zealand’s security of energy supply?

It is also clear that those who support the bill have picked up on Greenpeace’s arguments, with constant references to the ‘Anadarko Amendment’, which limits any protest action in New Zealand’s economic zone. quote.

The Government claims the bill must be enacted quickly to avoid disrupting the allocation of exploration permits for next year, but given the bill’s major long-term repercussions, this reflects, at best, a distorted sense of priorities. At worst, it is difficult to avoid the impression that the Government is uninterested in outside feedback on the bill.

This impression is reinforced by the second flaw in the process. While legislation related to (among other things) crown minerals is normally studied by the economic development, science and innovation committee, the Crown Minerals Bill has been sent to the environment committee instead.

This means that the bill ??and the MBIE report on its effects ? will not be reviewed by the MPs who have developed an expertise in natural resources and energy policy.

And then, at the risk of sounding cynical, one must also note that the environment committee has a majority of Labour, NZ?First, and Green MPs, and a Labour chair. The economic development, science and innovation committee, by contrast, is evenly split between Government and Opposition, and has a National MP as chairperson. The Government, one is tempted to conclude, has decided to submit its work to the more lenient examiner, instead of the more competent one.

In short, the MPs charged with scrutinising the Crown Minerals Bill will lack the time and the resources to do so even if they have the inclination, which is uncertain. And this is not an unfortunate accident, but the result of deliberate decisions by the Government to manipulate the parliamentary process.

If the Government is confident of the merits of its policy, it should welcome, not fear, full and orderly scrutiny of the Crown Minerals Bill. Those most impacted could speak out; the rest of us would have confidence that consequential policy has received careful consideration. Both of these things are essential when legislation that will affect New Zealand and its people for decades to come is being enacted. At present, neither is being done. end quote.

This is a shameful manipulation of the legislative process on the part of the government.

It is clear that the bill would go through proper scrutiny if it was subject to the normal process. The government is determined to stop that. This is our ‘open and transparent’ government, that wants to pass bills of their own choosing, whether they benefit the country or not. They have not thought this process through, and the risks to our energy supply and our economy overall are very significant because of it.