Between the lines: Nats’ RMA free-for-all

Written By: - Date published: 4:55 pm, September 30th, 2008 - 24 comments
Categories: economy, election 2008, Environment, national - Tags:

The RMA is a quick and cheap process in the vast majority of cases, and it is regarded as a world-leading piece of legislation. Few consent applications are refused or appealed. Reforms of the RMA over the years have made it more efficient. The studies show that the delays that do happen in consents being granted are usually due to incomplete applications and lack of resources at councils.

So, what does National want to do the RMA? Basically, it wants to take away our right to have a say about large developments and private use of public resources that affects our communities. Courts would be given the power to demand security for costs when objections meaning only well-funded groups could afford to object. Major projects would not go through the normal local process but will be fast-tracked through central government (National’s ‘Environmental Protection Agency’). It appears it would be harder for communities to object when this process is used, which is where major time savings would theoretically come in (personally, I think it will just end up with more complex cases going through the courts under judicial review, rather than through the environment court). Dealing with central government and more complex legal issues would prevent many local groups having the ability to object that they do currently. Why would National want that? Because public objections get in the way of businesses doing whatever the hell they want. Get rid of the objections, get rid of the hold-ups.

National points to electricity generation and transmission as the kind of major projects this ‘priority consent’ process would speed up. But there is already a call-in power that ministers have used to help fast-track electricity projects. That power, however, is only used for projects of national importance. Given that existing power, National’s ‘priority consenting’ seems (it’s not detailed) intended to remove public say over private developments that are not of national importance.

It really is more of the same from National. Vague policy using innocuous language that thinly veils an intention to give more control to those who have money and power, and less to the rest of us.

24 comments on “Between the lines: Nats’ RMA free-for-all”

  1. randal 1

    I have never had any dealings with the RMA whatsoever but it ssems to be a particular bone of contention to rugged individualists who want to do what they like without any interference whatsoever. Particularrly rural entrepreneuers who beleve that they always know best because its in the blood and they love the land so therefore they should be able to drain, burn, dig with no supervision. One thinks that if farmer shareholders in fonterra had not been either so mean, jealous or stupid then they would have guarded their investment in san lu more closely but I guess those chinese had no rma act at all or if they did they would have just ignored it in the belief that they knew best too.

  2. Oliver 2

    Power prices are still going up and 9 years of a Labour lead govt means that you can’t blame Max Bradford for this, especially when the RMA is stopping any power plants from getting built.

  3. Tane 3

    Oliver. I’ll never understand why Labour failed to reverse the Bradford reforms. A couple of years back I was having a go at a senior Labour figure about it and he replied “yeah, bugger, we really should have done something about that.”

    But while we’re on the topic, what do you reckon the chances are National’s going to reverse the reforms?

  4. Rose 4

    I think It would be Wise to find out your FACTS!!! before suggestions that nz farmer stupidity had anything to do with san lu!
    Thats a fucking shocking thing to say!!!
    allot of farmers are good people, and don’t need some arrogant wanker like you telling them their business!

  5. G 5

    Pierson: “The RMA is a quick and cheap process…”

    Tell that to Dave Henderson who’s Five Mile project fell over are five years of hearings and $35 million in development costs.

    “… Basically, it wants to take away our right to have a say about large developments… “

    Bloody good job!! It’s none of your freakin’ business — literally, metaphorically and morally.

    “… It really is more of the same from National…”

    Yeah?! National brought in the bloody RMA! They really can’t do right by the left, can they SP?

  6. RedLogix 6

    Bloody good job!! It’s none of your freakin’ business — literally, metaphorically and morally.

    And I guess you would have nothing to say if say …umm… a fish waste processing plant was built upwind in your next door neighbour’s backyard.

    It would of course be none of your business.

  7. Redlogix, can you flick me an email when you get a chance. Cheers, Paul.

  8. T-Rex 8

    Oliver – “especially when the RMA is stopping any power plants from getting built.”

    That is complete crap, as evidenced by the huge number of power plants that have been built since the introduction of the RMA.

    The only thing stopping power plants being built is investment interest. If you think there is a ton of money to be made, start a power company!

  9. T-Rex 9

    G – “Tell that to Dave Henderson who’s Five Mile project fell over are five years of hearings and $35 million in development costs.”

    Gladly. Though I really only have one thing to say to Dave Henderson, and that is “HAHAHAHAHA, HAHAH, HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA”. Karma is a b*tch. I do not imagine you will have to look far within the industry to find someone who thinks he had it coming.

    I think some of his projects, especially in downtown chch, were brilliant, but from what I’ve heard the guy himself is a total prick.

    That said, the RMA can be slow process at times. Suck it up. That is the only way to make sure everyone affected gets an opportunity to have their voice heard, and despite how inconvenient it might be the world isn’t all about the developers best interests.

    Are you trying to tell me you wouldn’t complain if a refuse station was proposed to be put in next to your nice new house out in the country G? Afterall, it’s not your property.

    RMA primarily focuses on externalised costs. So of COURSE business complains about it. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

  10. jbc 10

    I don’t have any experience building power stations under the RMA however I have sat on both sides of the process for some small (almost trivial) applications and it does seem to give nuisance objectors some teeth that they needn’t have.

    I was once sucked into the objectors’ camp largely due to the persistence of the neighbourhood busybody (the type of person who objects to anything new or different as a matter of principle). I withdrew my objection once I had the correct information at hand – as did most of the others. Some of them hung on to the bitter end though – forcing hearings and whatever else the process entails.

    I later learned that this cost the applicant (an individual) a few thousand dollars to deal with. No change of plans, just the cost of going through the process. This is money that would not have been spent if the objectors were not so stupid or easily led.

    Imagine if you personally had to spend 3 grand just to temporarily silence an ignoranus. I imagine the costs and risks are far greater for large developments.

    It would be interesting to hear what the Nats plans are for limiting ‘vexatious’ complaints. How you can tell a genuine grievance from something else is very hard to codify.

  11. G 11

    Red: “And I guess you would have nothing to say if say umm a fish waste processing plant was built upwind in your next door neighbour’s backyard… It would of course be none of your business.”

    T: “Are you trying to tell me you wouldn’t complain if a refuse station was proposed to be put in next to your nice new house out in the country G? Afterall, it’s not your property.”

    This just goes to prove what little understanding you socialists have of proper property rights. In a civilised country one property owner may not infringe the rights of another property owner. This includes trespass, waste, noise, and yes, particles carrying bad smells. Anything that crosses your boundary line that makes your property unlivable is an infringement. Your neighbour is entitled to build whatever he likes, including a waste dump, provided he can find a way to contain his activity within his own boundaries.

    T: “I really only have one thing to say to Dave Henderson, and that is “HAHAHAHAHA, HAHAH, HAHAHAHAHAHHAHA’… I do not imagine you will have to look far within the industry to find someone who thinks he had it coming… from what I’ve heard the guy himself is a total prick.”

    What exactly has he done that deserves such an uncharitable response?

  12. T-Rex 12

    Well I’m glad to hear you think any infringement on your rights is unacceptable G. Obviously you can’t expect the perpetrator of said infringement to act as an advocate of your rights, so presumably you’re anticipating the opportunity to have them taken into consideration before the project goes ahead. Hmm, just writing them a letter asking them to be nice and think of your feelings probably won’t help… you’re going to need an impartial forum with powers of enforcement. It’ll probably have a cost though, but that cost will just be part of ensuring everyones rights are respected.

    Clearly you agree with all this, so why exactly you’re protesting the existence of the RMA is beyond me.

    As for DH, I can’t tell any specific stories without revealing their origin, so I won’t. Which, I realise, is no evidence at all – so don’t feel any compulsion to change your views of the guy based on my opinion, if you still want to make a “best friends forever” eternity bracelet for him or something then just go crazy.

  13. jbc 13

    Just re-read my earlier post and it looks a bit like one of those posed hypothetical constructions. It is not.

    One detail I neglected to mention was that the applicant visited me at home. Along with his partner he walked me through the plans and explained the technicality upon which consent was required. This all checked out with other information I had.

    After weighing up all the facts I became very suspicious of the objectors motives. The applicant(s) were a gay couple, quite openly so, and their plans were nothing extraordinary. I might have been wrong but I began to think the objectors were driven by personal feelings against the applicant rather than the law.

    So I guess I’m saying the RMA as it stands can be abused. Some of the Nats plans might be grounded in reality.

  14. T-Rex 14

    jbc – I absolutely agree it can be abused! The same is true of any such open submission process I can imagine though – including any other legal proceeding. The question is whether the benefit is worth the cost.
    As long as the review process is impartial then the outcome should be fair, even if the submissions in opposition are not.

    Good on you for thinking for yourself rather than buying into mob mentality.

  15. jbc 15

    Well, T-Rex – that case of ‘RMA vandalism’ was 15+ years ago from memory. I guess that puts it in the early days of the act. I still believe it is important to be able to protest but I think there is some room to raise the bar for objections.

    For something of national infrastructural importance (like a power station) I would think it better for the govt to find appropriate sites (hydro, wind, geothermal, ?), bear the cost of RMA approval, and then put the pre-approved sites up for lease on commercial terms.

  16. RedLogix 16

    Anything that crosses your boundary line that makes your property unlivable is an infringement. Your neighbour is entitled to build whatever he likes, including a waste dump, provided he can find a way to contain his activity within his own boundaries.

    So now YOUR presence is imposing not inconsiderable costs on the person who wants to operate a waste dump or fish processing plant upwind of you. Now HE wants to protest YOUR demands on him. All of a sudden the two of you are arguing the definitions of what constitutes a “nuisance” and haw bad it has to be before it makes life “unlivable” for you. In order to contain a dust and noise nuisance he might propose a 10m high wall along your northern boundary; at which point you realise that you actually value the sunlight that crosses it. And so on. Resolving this kind of thing is what the RMA is for.

    Reality is a lot more complex than in your black and white, fantasy libertarian world.

  17. vto 17

    I’ve studied the RMA, obtained many resource consents and also had my say in objection to large applications (eg, Central Plains Water, Project Aqua.). I always give the boundaries a push in my applications, keep the neighbours overly informed, and simply ask the bureaucrats what they need (and then provide it) and I now find the whole process sweet as a nut.

    People who complain about the system are simply working it in the wrong manner (you know, abuse the Council staff, complain constantly, strike up bad relations with neighbours, rely too heavily on consultants, etc). So blah blah, I find the system good.

    What is not good is this proposal to limit the ability of affected parties to have their say. There are of course times when non-affected parties overstep their position (eg, Foodstuffs objecting to a new supermarket in ‘their patch’, venomous nosybodies, etc), but it just requires some minor tweaking in this area.

    What this is tryig to achieve is, by way of example, allowing Meridian to construct Project Aqua. They can just f… off. That application was a very good example of the Act in action. To short-cut a long story – National’s plan to change this is enough to start rocking my intended voting foundation blocks.

    It will result in dams on stacks and stacks of rivers which is just the most brainless thing ever when NZ will still need, at some point, to find alterntives to hydro. dumbos. 2c.

  18. lprent 18

    vto: That is my impression as well about the RMA. The people who have problems with it are the ones who have problems with following a process.

    The process is designed to make sure that you don’t crap on your neighbors lawn in the pursuit of whatever you want.

  19. toad 19

    Who can remember Muldoon’s National Development Act? Clyde dam, Aramoana smelter, Motunui Synfuel plant and all that. Surely not!

  20. T-rex 20

    “The process is designed to make sure that you don’t crap on your neighbors lawn in the pursuit of whatever you want.”

    Which probably has a lot to do with why Dave Henderson ran into problems. I don’t know the details, but I do have extremely strong anecdotal evidence that he wouldn’t hesitate to crap on his neighbors lawn for so much as heartbeat if he thought there were good odds there was a buck in it.

    Once more: hahahaha haha. It’s his investors I feel sorry for (at least those that weren’t bastards… such as all the pretty upset hanover shareholders for example). Moral – try to avoid lending your money to unscrupulous bastards.

  21. vto 21

    T-rex, I don’t think Henderson was unscrupulous. From what I hear and see I suspect its more a case of partial incompetence – incompetence in believing he would find enough people to fill his pioneering developments and incompetence in administering the projects (i.e. ensuring bills can be paid etc before incurring the debt). I see no seriously naughty behaviour.

    Re finance company shareholders and investors – imo they have some responsibility for the current mess too. They knew what they were getting into. And if they didn’t then they too were incompetent. But whatever, it is sad when people get hurt in times like these. All people.

  22. randal 22

    rose..nobody knows everything and most people dont need to swear like that instead of composing a cogent rebuttal.

  23. bill brown 23

    Particularrly rural entrepreneuers who beleve that they always know best because its in the blood and they love the land so therefore they should be able to drain, burn, dig with no supervision.

    Notice, though, they’re quick to use it when someone wants to, say, build a power pylon on their land.

  24. Alexandra 24

    G – The RMA serves a far greater purpose than as a barrier to crapping on your neighbours lawn. It ensures consideration is given to wider enviromental and culteral effects on development. Even if you are upwind of your neighbour or your pollution remains on your property and does not infringe on others, that doesnt give the possessor of the land the right to shit all over it, or to destroy it. Your example is a poor excuse for weakening the RMA in favour of developers, and indeed supports the need to strengthen it. The law of using natural resources in away that sustains the enviroment in an ancient one. History shows, however that the RMA provides an important role in controlling the excesses of greed.

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