When National announced it would create an ‘Environmental Protection Agency’ and a short-cut resource consent process for projects of ‘national significance’, the implications were clear. The new agency and process would be used to override local opposition. Sure enough, that’s what’s happening with Waterview.
The controversial Waterview project was the first project to be put into the EPA’s fast track. At $1.4 billion it’s the country’s biggest ever roading project requiring 54 resource consents and 7 land designations. The public were given just four weeks to submit their views.
It’s an insult, clearly designed to prevent people with genuine and complex concerns from having time to do a proper job in their submissions. The Auckland Council asked the deadline for submissions to be extended by just two weeks. No dice.
When National demanded a cheap version of Labour’s Waterview project, they got a re-design that saw only parts of the route underground. The rest will be above ground. Surprise, surprise – it’s the rich houses that get the tunnels under them. Poor families’ houses get bowled.
National’s cost-saving demands have resulted in more corner-cutting: a ventiliation building won’t be underground anymore, it will tower 8m over the remainents of a local park; the pedistarian and cycle route won’t go the whole length of the motorway; rather than filtering emissions from the tunnels, they’ll just pump them out 25m high shafts.
These petty cost savers all amount to broken promises and loss of environmental value for the local community. They require well thought out objections to show that they are inadequate and shouldn’t be consented. But the Government has calculated that giving the public just 20 days to submit will prevent people having time to do that.
Anti-democratic, penny wise/pound foolish, and cynical – it’s John Key’s National Government in a nutshell.