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In the driver’s seat

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, November 24th, 2008 - 43 comments
Categories: act, cartoons, community democracy, Environment - Tags: , ,

43 comments on “In the driver’s seat ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    lol very clever. The scary thing is what is after.

  2. George 2

    about time too. silly bloody RMA. another hand brake on progress.

  3. We live in hope. As soon as the act is dropped the better.

  4. Tane 4

    Yeah, that whole community democracy thing… total drag eh guys?

  5. higherstandard 5

    Nothing wrong with community democracy Tane – too often though the RMA was used to block projects that the bulk of the community supported.

    The main benefactors of the RMA seem to have been the legal profession.

  6. Pascal's bookie 6

    “…too often though the RMA was used to block projects that the bulk of the community supported.”

    Name 5.

    Bet you can’t without:

    contradicting “Nothing wrong with community democracy”

    or using weird defintions for: “RMA was used to block ” or “bulk of the community supported”.

  7. lukas 7

    PB… first one that came to mind was the Piha cafe

  8. Tane 8


    1) It’s entirely appropriate that members of the community who have concerns about the environmental, social and heritage impacts of development are able to have their say.

    2) You’re talking about a cafe on a beach, not a vital infrastructure project needed to develop the economy.

    Remember, the your line is that the RMA is holding back economic growth, not that it’s allowing community objections to cafes built in heritage buildings next to iconic beaches.

    3) Resource consent was granted.

  9. Ianmac 9

    Aren’t 98% of consents granted without contest?

  10. Chris S 10

    Ianmac: 99% are granted without contest, and half of the applications that are contested are allowed after the case has been heard.

    I assume the 0.5% are held up indefinitely or cancelled.

  11. Jimbo 11

    Surely the important stat is what % of projects are blocked by value? That way, a blocked cafe is not the same as a blocked power station.

    Does anyone have that stat?

  12. Pascal's bookie 12

    Ianmac: I seem to recall that about 95% are granted without public consultation, thereby putting the lie to this entire line of argument.


  13. Tane 13

    If anyone’s done research into this, do flick it through us. The Left is going to need to get its research and its lines on the RMA in order very soon.

  14. randal 14

    habitat and biodiversity are THE key questions facing the world
    leaders and partys come and go but if we destroy some or all of the vital principles of physical wellbeing on the plas net then humanity will be living living in a sh*thole
    no apologies for the non-bleatway non complex terminology and argument

  15. randal 15

    habitat and biodiversity are far too important to be left to rugged individuals with a chainsaw, bulldozer and some sort of pissweak vision

  16. Chris S 16

    From Rod Oram’s 2007 paper on the RMA:

    Among key facts from the 2005/2006 survey:

    – 51,768 resource consents were processed through to a decision, up 7.7%
    from 48,045 in 1999/00
    – 0.69% (357) of resource consent applications processed were declined
    compared to just under 1% declined 1999/00
    – 4.1% (2,129) of resource consents were publicly notified compared to 5.2% in
    1996-97 and 5% notified in 1999/00
    – 1.5% (768) of resource consents were notified to affected parties only (limited
    – 73% of all resource consents were processed within statutory time limits
    compared to 76% in 1996-97 and 82% in 1999/00
    – 1.0% (543) of resource consent decisions were appealed to the Environment
    Court, unchanged from 1999/00

    However, he seems to be arguing the the RMA isn’t effective enough at protecting the environment although it has become much more efficient since it’s inception.

  17. gingercrush 17

    The cafe was an entirely poor example and not what the National party had in mind when changing the RMA. A better example would be the wind farm in Otago.

    http://national.org.nz/files/2008/RMA.pdf – Not nearly as scary as some people make it out.

    Fact is it will get passed as National has the numbers easily. The left can choose to merely try and block it but I see that as a mistake. Instead they should see what they can add to the changes in the RMA that prevent environment destruction and to ensure the RMA doesn’t lose focus the community democracy aspect. Where there is the potential for trouble is with the Maori party. Which likely will oppose any changes in RMA policy in terms of the Treaty of Waitangi.

    Incidentally the Labour party had no policy on the RMA. There’s was to keep it as it was. The Greens wished to strengthen the RMA.

    National needs to be careful. On one hand its pointless leaving the RMA as it is. Where they need to be focus is that the changes can’t afford to lose its community democracy aspects or its environmental aspects. On the other hand anything that can speed up the process is a good thing.

    I don’t think the changes National wish to bring are all doom and gloom for the left. I also think its an opportunity for the left to make a case for the RMA to be strengthen to ensure environmental protection without necessarily hurting the streamlining of the RMA. It just depends how the left handle it I suppose.

  18. Ianmac 18

    Gingercrush: interesting read of the Nats RMA policy. Thanks. I guess some of the items which might speed up the process might be a good thing. But the Priority Processing might be a problem. Does Priority equal bulldozing a project through, as the cartoon above would suggest?

  19. Felix 19

    I tend to agree with ginger in that there’s no need for Labour to be the type of opposition National has been.

    The National party’s support of the repeal of section 69 is the one conspicuous exception I can think of (and they don’t like to talk about that one) to the way they performed in opposition.

    Labour can and should be a constructive opposition party and work to achieve positive outcomes wherever possible regardless of the position they find themselves in, much as the Greens have done – from outside of government – with considerable success.

  20. Billy 20


    You mean like calling for cross-party agreement on electoral reform? So easy to be reasonable and inclusive when the numbers aren’t on your side anymore.

  21. Felix 21

    Not sure where you’re coming from with that Billy.

    I’m not saying the government is obliged to listen, I just think the opposition should make an honest attempt at trying to work with the govt if possible rather than outright oppose everything the govt does 180 degrees.

    The Nats showed they were capable of this with the repeal of sec 59 and the Greens do it all the time. I’m just saying I’d like to see Labour take this approach where they can legitimately do so.

  22. Billy 22

    What I mean Felix is that, given their behaviour when in government (over the EFA in particular), any call by Labour for cross party consensus on issues is going to ring a little hollow.

  23. lprent 23

    Billy: From what I understand, the Nat’s were totally opposed to both increasing the accounting transparency for political donations and increasing the election accounting period.

    Since those were the two things that Labour was adamant had to change, there was a basic conflict. I’d expect that the same would happen when the law gets changed next time. While the Nat’s and Act were happy to attack anonymous trusts and ask NZF to open up their books, I noticed that they were reluctant to do the same for their trusts.

    The area that there was room to move on in 2007 was the role of the 3rd parties, labelling etc. The Nat’s preferred to play a opposition role on those as well – probably because they didn’t like having to make their large donors become non-anonymous.

    To be perfectly frank, I’d expect Labour to oppose major changes to those first two, and (if changed) resolve to change them back to transparency and realistic election periods when they have the numbers.

  24. higherstandard 24

    I thought they were looking to repeal the EFA go back to the 1993 Electoral Act but were going to take the sections in relation to donations from the EFA and insert them into the 1993 ACT.

  25. Jasper 25

    RMA halted the progress of Project Aqua. Now that would have been worthwhile. No power cuts for the next few years.

    RMA halted progress on Water Taxis around Tauranga Harbour in 2002/2003. Water Taxis would have been an ideal addition to the transport network in Tauranga, but due to “oil spill risks” “disturbance to wildlife” the Water Taxi business was doomed to failure.

    Remedial work needed urgently on a Dam in the Hunua Ranges in 2003 delayed it by nearly a year

    RMA is now causing issues with a skateboard park in Titahi Bay

    RMA caused a headache for the Te Rauparaha Arena – which is finally open and is a bloody fantastic venue. Much better than the echolocaters nightmare that is TSB Arena.

    Need I say more? Its amusing its Nactional that have to tidy up their mess… Labour at least attempted to work with it, but Nactional “Oh NO, it’s TOO hard”

    OT: Is anyone else wondering how Key as “Tourism Minister” and Joyce being the CEO of “Jasons Travel Media” could be portrayed elsewhere? Would JTM benefit from such an arrangement? Could JTM be poised to publish insider information based on information Key would pass on to Joyce?

  26. lprent 26

    hs: From what I understand of the Nat’s policy on the EFA (there is bugger all of it).

    They were planning on repealing the EFA and as you say heading back to the 1993 Act. After that they have said they’d either amend the EFA 1993 or add a new Act – but unspecified on what.

    They haven’t specified what they’d do to legislate the enormous problems with the 1993 act. Personally I’d suspect that they will just drop back to the 1993 Act and do some tinkering after 6 months or a year. That would allow them to use the anonymous trusts to refill their coffers. If they hit any opposition to their ideas, then I’d expect them to leave it on the 1993 Act over the next election.

    After all they did write the 1993 act to favour themselves in the first place. There is no benefit for them to fix their corrupt electoral law.

  27. Quoth the Raven 27

    Jasper – Where do you live? Because I’m guessing its not where project aqua would have ruined your land. Project Aqua is perfect example of how the RMA works for communities. Need you say more? Yes. A skateboard park hardly an important piece of infrastructure, more like an eye sore to cater for a fad and then you mention some arena where consent was granted, so yes you do need to say more.

  28. higherstandard 28


    I’m not sure, I thought I read somewhere that they were definitely going to keep the bits in relation to transparency of donations – although guess we’ll have to wait and see and I would hope there’s more important things on the agenda in the short term.

  29. Tane:

    Why should other people have a say in what you do?

    Perhaps I should put in a submission against the local Marae when it wants to erect something?

  30. Felix 30

    Fair enough Billy. I too think Labour could have handled a lot of things a lot better in the last few years.

    Of course they can’t “call for” inclusion as you put it, they’re not in govt and that’s that. As I said, the National govt has no obligation to work with them.

    I does strike me as interesting though, that the deal with the maori party is seen as a safety valve on National’s left to be used when ACT wants to go too far right.

    In many areas Labour’s policy is probably closer to National’s than either ACT or the maori party. If Labour are smart they’ll recognise the opportunities this presents and not cut off their nose(s) to spite their face(s).

    I suspect though, that politically Labour wants to create the impression of more distance from National so we’ll probably see expediency take precedence over principle as usual.

  31. Felix 31


    Because we all have to live here together.

    And yes, if the local marae wants to erect something that will interfere with your quality of life then you should make a submission. Why wouldn’t you?

  32. Felix:

    People are making submissions on others private land, that in no way have any effect on their quality of life and that is the problem.

  33. Felix 33

    Really? Haven’t come across that myself.

  34. Ari 34

    Nothing wrong with community democracy Tane – too often though the RMA was used to block projects that the bulk of the community supported.

    The main benefactors of the RMA seem to have been the legal profession.

    There are legitimate situations where a non-majority of the community have a right to block a project which has a very high impact on them. I think there are a few cases where you’re right, but that they’re mostly to do with wind turbines which oddly seem to face about five times the scrutiny of other projects. Not In My Back Yard, right? 😉

  35. the sprout 35

    nah it’s true Felix, people who actually live in the affected areas are forever choosing to degrade their own quality of life. they just don’t seem to get how fly-by-night developers really have everyone’s best interests at heart.

  36. Ianmac 36

    On Close Up tonight the theme was about the RMA being used by competitors to block the building of a Supermarket over a period from 1987? to now. Court cases, appeals the lot. Many details of contention did not directly affect the complainants. eg Possible road problems 1 km down the road from the proposed site.
    Competitors appealing for competitive reasons is not the same as appeals because I am directly affected. I suppose that part of the RMA should be tidied up?

  37. gingercrush 37

    Indeed Iammac. Thing is Nationals legislation will not put in effect the likes of Brett Dale is saying. Its mainly streamlining and changing what someone can appeal, argue, make a statement against. That is its intention. How strong it goes to where it could damage to the environment etc largely depends what role Act will play and what if any concessions can be made by National to get the left on board. One thing is I can’t see the Maori Party being happy with changes to the Act in regards to the Treaty. That should prove interesting.

    At the end of the day. For now at least any plans National will bring should still ensure environment concerns and private citizens will still have a say.

    Another thing is that often in terms of housing developments etc. That goes back to the council. For instance, here in Merivale and St Albans Christchurch. Often people will will make an argument in terms of the damage demolishing an older building will have on the heritage of these two suburbs. These two suburbs vote National in a big way. Thing is, this is barely a government matter, rather a council matter. The council sets the RMA process for such matters. Thus, if people want change in this area. Go to the council.

    Here, I tend to agree that constant bulldozing of heritage/older houses is having a detrimental affect in St. Albans and Merivale. Personally I would like to see it changed so any housing before 1940 must get additional consent.


    Anyway, National’s RMA changes should not mean concerns over the environment or cultural/heritage concerns can’t be addressed. It will however mean people can’t use the RMA for commercial purposes ie. Iammac’s example. Likewise the bill is to make it easier for consents and streamlining the RMA for large infrastructure projects. The left have legitimate concerns that the bill will mean changes that put less relevance in terms of the environment and cultural/heritage concerns and community democracy.

    If you are that concerned about the changes National will bring. Do not block the bill or protest. Only protest after you’ve had a say. These changes will require three readings in the house it will too need to go to select committee. That is where the left can influence it and make changes to the bill. This is also where the public gets their say. Also a lot of the RMA comes down to your local council.

    For instance, if you’re concerned about building developments in your area. Ie. someone has purchased a 1910 era building and wish to demolish that and put in a new building development. Use the consent process to have your say. The sad thing is under current and new legislation, likely you are unaware of changes in your community.

    Most importantly, go to your council and ask them to enact changes preventing the widespread demolishing of older/heritage buildings. And have your say when it comes to council elections. Its disgusting that while 70+% vote in a National election yet barely over 50% or hell in some places less than 50% vote in council elections. A disturbing figure. Councils are hugely influential in terms of what can and can’t be built in your area. And there are plenty of candidates wanting to change these areas.

  38. lprent 38

    hs: I suspect that there is probably nothing higher on the Nact’s agenda.

    After all it takes time to get legislation through, and NACT is probably going to need all help it can get for the next election. It wasn’t exactly a tremendous victory.

    Of course the nact’s higher standard is to not have a level playing field (I couldn’t resist that)

  39. gingercrush 39

    Why do you insist on saying that Iprent. You want something not impressive. Take a look at 2005. That wasn’t impressive in the slightest. Had National gained 3% we would have had a National-led government. 2005 was the closest election since 1993. 2011 already proves interesting because New Zealand First’s 4% could go anywhere. 2008 was close to an extent. But not as close as the left likes to think. And anyone thinking 2011 is cakewalk for the left are delusional. Do you really think National wants a single term in government?

    As for the EFA. Well it needs rid of. Sure National will likely play to its own favour. But the EFA is a disgusting piece of legislation, that should never have passed and why anyone continues to defend it is beyond me.


    And I’ll say it right now, National will continue to be the government in 2011.

  40. TimeWarp 40

    “On Close Up tonight the theme was about the RMA being used by competitors to block the building of a Supermarket over a period from 1987? to now. Court cases, appeals the lot. Many details of contention did not directly affect the complainants. eg Possible road problems 1 km down the road from the proposed site.
    Competitors appealing for competitive reasons is not the same as appeals because I am directly affected. I suppose that part of the RMA should be tidied up?”

    Yes lanmac, I watched that story – and I’ve read about it in repeated Herald articles over the years, although my recollection of those articles is blurry.

    It worried me watching that story tonight, but I’ve been thinking about that further. I think there is an element of the story that hasn’t come out – or at least, hasn’t been widely commentated on.

    My thoughts are this – the building is basically completed, it just hasn’t been fitted as there was a court injunction or similar that stopped progress.

    The possible implication to me is that, given consent was issued and building started in the first place, there was some flaw with the initial consent that bought the process to a halt.

    There may be relevant issues with the RMA to be dealt with, but a possible alternative or complementary factor would appear to me to be that Foodstuffs, despite all the suits and lawyers, failed to follow the RMA process completely – in fact possibly attempted to short-cut it. What other reason would there be for overturning a consent once issued? If that is the case, then the company can only blame themselves. I may do some research on the background.

    Yes the regulation may be a little on the tight side – but given what we are going through in the financial markets currently, anyone pushing unfettered process and ACT’s “flexbility for companies to do business” message has limited credibility without a very strong and comprehensive case. So far we haven’t seen that case, just lots of anecdotes.

  41. lprent 41

    gc: I keep saying that because you need to look at the 1999 election and 2002 elections for what a clearcut victory looks like under MMP.

    There were clear majorities on the left, to the point where HC could cherry pick largely compatible coalitions to get the required majorities in the house. Remember that number of electorate seats won doesn’t matter. What matters is seats in the house.

    2005 was a knife edge election and so was 2008. In the end both came down to just a few seats in the house to get a majority. Effectively NACT have hoovered all of the conservative vote apart from that fragment still remaining to UF since 2002. Effectively there is no centre parties any longer since NZF has probably gone into a dissolution like the Alliance did. The only reason that NACT won was because they destroyed NZF electorally.

    To try to make the NACT coalition stable at the centre, they had to reach to the MP. Well just have a close look at the party voting in the maori electorates. The MP has to be able to show benefits to voters to get them to repeat that vote. Those concessions will cause problems in NACT. If they get stalled, it is likely that the MP will withdraw to protect their vote. The NZLP is a very good campaigner in those seats – just ask the MP politicians.

    2008 has a high likelihood of being the highpoint of the conservative vote. That is assuming that Labour sticks close to the centre, which I think that they will Goff/King is a pretty clear signal. There isn’t likely to be any faction fighting in the NZLP, too many of us will work to ensure that there isn’t.

    Frankly I’d be surprised if the NACT’s manage to get a second term, after all they’re trying for Labour-lite, and I’ve never actually noticed many NACT’s that would be happy settling for that. It wouldn’t surprise me if they fail to survive this term. They only just scraped over the line which leaves things wide open for waka jumping exercises.

    BTW: Of the NZF voters more than 70% are likely to go left rather than right. You’re not talking entrepreneurs here. Look at the NZF party vote in the Moari electorates, and look at it against the age demographic in general seats. They aren’t the votes of the affluent with tax grievances.

  42. gingercrush 42

    Competely disagree. Labour needed both the Greens and the Alliance. United only brought 1 seat. And at the time New Zealand First was poisoned and so they could not go there. National has chosen to work with the Maori party and United Future. They don’t have to they choose to. You keep talking about waka-jumping and where are these waka-jumpers going to come from? That argument hardly washes nor makes sense.

    Also don’t make the mistake in believing lower income people don’t vote National.The provinces in particular put a lie to that.That New Zealand First vote can and will go several ways. Yes one assumes the majority will vote Labour. But 70% is perhaps too much.

    You also make the presumption the National party is somehow going to break up or stuff up. Neither of those should be presumed. Like I said National want long-term governance. They’re hardly going to break up and no one has been able to say why or how they’ll break up. They won’t go far to the right. But movement to the right will not necessarily hurt them at the polls.The 2005 election showed that the difference between the right and the left wasn’t that much.

    The left have a problem too. The Greens. Its always a factor. With the centre gone at this stage anyway. Labour is dependent on the Greens. Surely as much a fear factor for a number of people in this country as Act. We haven’t seen a situation yet where the Greens have held the power. If ever Labour gets in and must have the Greens vote and there isn’t an additional larger party in there to keep it going too left. You have to ask whether this country will tolerate it. National could campaign on this and it could do damage. And I do believe there are elements that are very scared of the Green party. I even think Labour are very wary to ever be so reliant with the Greens.

    As for Labour now it doesn’t have Clark leading. We don’t know how much a difference that will make. If pollings go down for Labour. That is going to bring murmurs in that party. You talk about them being stable now. But if they’re at a point where the polls are telling a story of likely defeat. You will see blood. They’ve been sensible so far. But if National does well, Labour will burn themselves just like National did in the early 2000s.


    The sensible left realise that National has worked itself out well and has a set a platform that could point to a long-term and successful arrangement. The hard left or the irrational left point to problems but rather hope that National will self-destruct. Its a viewpoint one should be wary of. In New Zealand there is a long history that any government will typically last two terms or more. The exceptions are 1951 and 1974. National has been 4-5 years rebuilding its base and more importantly capturing that centre. They have now got the Maori party onboard. National is looking at coalitions that will result in more support.There is danger in being reliant on Act and using the Maori for a more centrist approach. But if successful this could be long-term.

    I disagree with this election being National going Labour-lite. In 2005 they were very right and they garnered 39%. They pushed tax cuts. What happened between 2005-2008? Labour delivered tax cuts. Who did Labour go to for confidence and supply? They didn’t go to the left, they went to New Zealand First and United Future. If the 2005 election told us anything. It was Labour who moved. National did move you’re quite right. They got rid of the right rhetoric something they always had to do. Yes they too moved to the centre. They kept the best of what Labour delivered sure. But there are many elements National polled on that still largely point to a right-wing agenda. How far right can they move? Not that far sure.


    The voting public is smarter than we think. In 1999 they voted left sure, that was the only route it could go after a very tired right-wing government. 2002 they knew Labour would win, they didn’t like what they saw in National. But the electorate knew too much power for Labour was dangerous. Thus a far stronger vote for the centre. 2005 you saw the left and right fighting over very small territory. I dare say this was anyone’s game and the electorate didn’t quite trust National thus Labour got it in the end.

    2008 the electorate proved itself again by not allowing the Maori party to be kingmaker.


    Ack its nearly 3am. And once again something that should take a paragraph ends up being several and poorly punctuated with horrid grammar so to sum up.

    Yes its possible Labour can win in 2011. But its just as likely if not more likely National will win again in 2011. I say National because I actually see a different route for 2011. I see National digging further into the cities. The Left should hold hope in winning again in 2011. But don’t pin it off National making mistakes or moving to the right. And don’t think its a walk in the park. Labour knows it won’t be that. I just don’t understand why the left blogosphere can’t comprehend that.

  43. lprent 43

    Off to work so only a couple of points.

    MMP – all electorates vote every party, they just do it with different percentages. Labour won in 1999 largely because of the rural votes.

    In 1999 and 2002, NZF would be difficult to work with, but could have been pulled into a left-leaning coalition if required. Every MMP election throws up a range of parties to form coalitions. What I’m arguing is that there are usually a lot more votes for them on the leftish side on average than the right.

    National appears to be as internally factional as Labour was in its worst days. It looks like it is only the need to win elections cohesively that hasn’t caused the party breakouts that the NZLP has already done. It was almost liberating for the NZLP because it meant that there was a high degree of internal cohesiveness. With the Nats it has in the past tended to show up in not doing changes when required. I don’t think that it will be much different this time.

    The greens are almost getting mainstream these days. It is only the voters on the right that are susceptible to scare tactics about them. They’re unlikely to change their minds, but they’re also unlikely to vote left either. People that will vote for the greens are getting older and therefore more numerous. They are also entering the NZLP. The fear factor is getting less. Act on the other hand still has quite a lot of fear factor including on the right.

    It won’t be a walk in the park to win in 2011 – lots of work to do. But it is a *lot* harder to remain popular in government than it is to get kudo’s in opposition. Government is an exercise in the dismal science, especially when carrying the superannuation burden. It means that there is a lot of room to point out flaws in decisions, and Labour is very good at it.

    In the end the right didn’t get an overwhelming victory, it got a narrow victory. That just doesn’t leave a lot of room for maneuvere.

    The NACT’s screwing up. Yep – I expect that, they always have. But basically like any government they will do so – it is the nature of government. In their case I’d just expect it will come earlier rather than later. Because of the blogs I’d also expect that it will be harder to manage the spin.

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