Local democracy just got screwed

Written By: - Date published: 7:01 am, March 15th, 2016 - 31 comments
Categories: activism, democracy under attack, law, local government - Tags: , , , ,

A few weeks ago I posted about the Christchurch City District Plan review process, and the campaign to save Christchurch’s Notable trees.

So far the notable trees campaign has had to spend over $20,000 just to be heard in the discussions that are deciding the fate of over 2000 heritage and notable trees in the “garden city”.

The process that is driving the hearings process is the Brain Child of that champion of local democracy, Nick Smith.

And now he is finally getting the chance to stick it to all those people he thought were rude to him the last time he was minister against local government.

Submissions have just closed on the Resource Management Amendment Bill 2015, and the planning process this bill describes is scarily familiar to those of us who have been involved in the Christchurch District Plan review hearings

If the bill goes through in its current form then you can all expect vital decisions about local planning issues to be made in a hearings process that is run like a court, where you have to pay for lawyers and experts to be heard.

Another wonderful provision in this bill is the ability to just “strike out” any submissions that a hearing panel believes are “vexatious”. That will surely enhance local democracy!

http://www.mfe.govt.nz/rma/rma-reforms-and-amendments/about-resource-legislation-amendment-bill-2015

Submissions on this bill closed at 5pm on Monday and I hope that there are some real heavy hitters lining up to fight this. Because if the changes go through as written, then the whole country gets to experience what we have been going through for the last six months.

I won’t be fighting it. I and other people fighting the planning changes in Christchurch have nothing left to fight with. No money, no time, no energy.

The Christchurch hearings process drags on as an open ended process, and every time the hearings panel moves a date, or allows the council to introduce another piece of evidence, the price of democracy goes up a few more thousand dollars for submitter groups.

If this bill goes through, then community groups all over the country are going to become intimately acquainted with just how badly they have been shafted by Mr Smith and his accomplices.

So – I have picked my battle, and I along with some others are fighting it. I really hope that there is going to be strong opposition to the RMA Amendment Bill. It needs to be fought. But others are going to have to take the lead here.

The fight for the trees of Christchurch continues. If you are in a position to support those who are fighting it, then they do still need your help. You can still donate via the Give A Little page at:

https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/chchnotabletrees

— Andrew Robins

31 comments on “Local democracy just got screwed”

  1. Ad 1

    Good on you for giving it your all.

    I am personally afraid for my Titirangi forest. If developers try it here, we’ll meet them and resist, tree by tree.

    • Andrew 1.1

      Hi AD

      Tree by tree resistance is part of what needs to happen, for sure. But ultimately you need to beat them in the hearing room if you want to have more than a temporary impact.

      In Chch plenty of local groups have tried to speak up, but the only people who have had any success are the ones who have been able to pay for a lawyer.

      There are lots of technical reasons for this. But the main issue is that by taking control of the hearings away from the council and giving it to a panel that lacks the resources of the council, submitters now have to do all the work that the council used to do – otherwise the panel cannot operate.

      I know this probably sounds confusing, but believe me, it is a perfect shit storm if you are trying to keep up with it as a private individual

    • Andrew 1.2

      Hi AD,

      Tree by tree campaigns are part of what needs to happen – but these are really ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.

      What Nick Smith is doing is quietly stacking the deck against any sort of local participation or representation in key decisions impacting the way our communities are put together and function.

      Cheers

      Andrew

      • Ad 1.2.1

        National’s legislative majority is solid on this one. Knock yourself out at Select Committee but it’s good to go.

        From now on, it’s sand in the petrol tanks.

        • Andrew 1.2.1.1

          I know. I guess that’s one reason why I didn’t submit. This has every appearance of a done deal.

  2. Sacha 2

    Parliament’s environment watchdog shares your concerns about the effect of Smith’s proposals on how resources will be managed: http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/298939/commissioner-proposed-rma-changes-too-broad

  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    And still no “Attack on Democracy” headlines from the MSM despite the fact that our government is slowly whittling away our democracy.

    • Jenny Kirk 3.1

      Yeah DTB – I get the impression most people don’t understand the RMA and also to them local govt is boring ….. so the govt can whittle away to its heart’s content and it will all be gone before the media and sheeples wake up !

      • TC 3.1.1

        MSM arent asleep they are an active part of this destruction and transfer of wealth into private hands.

        • Andrew 3.1.1.1

          And of course Dr Nick Smith, of Smiths Cranes, will not benefit in any way from these changed rules.

          Nothing to see here…

          Move on….

    • miravox 3.2

      +1

  4. Jenny Kirk 4

    Best wishes for a positive outcome on your struggle, Andrew Robins. I totally agree with you …. and have alerted as many people as possible to the likely horrendous outcomes of these RMA changes. EDS have put in a terrific submission – and I hear the Maori Party do not like some aspects of it – so hopefully the arguments against the RMA changes which affect local govt decisions will be dropped. Can only wait and hope for that to happen, now.

    • Andrew 4.1

      Hi Jenny,

      That is encouraging. I am glad that the EDS have got involved. I guess part of me is a little bit resentful that they did not choose to participate in the process in Christchurch – because we could have really used their help (which they chose not to give), but it is good that they are coming to the party now.

      Community groups down here have been almost completely shut out during the hearings. The only reason we got traction on the trees was that we realised very early on how badly the deck was stacked against us, and we made the decision to spend a whole lot of money we did not have.

      Other groups tried to go it alone, and they have achieved precisely nothing in hearings or mediation. It is not that they did not have valuable input to offer, but they weren’t able to play the “our expert is better than your expert” game, and pay for legal cross examination – so they were just ignored.

      User pays democracy. Coming to a city near you if Nick Smith gets his way.

    • Andrew 5.1

      Hi Anthony,

      I am glad that the Greens are paying attention at a national level.

      I am a Green Party member, and I am ashamed to say that they were asleep at the wheel in Christchurch.

      It was very difficult to get ANY response from them on the trees.

      We were successful with our fourth attempt.

      Cheers

      Andrew

  5. greywarshark 6

    Another outcome that was feared if Labour didn’t win the last election. They obliged by not trying hard enough.

    If they were such failures at uni they would get their student assistance from the government dropped. The government are in reality at a sort of university, confronting new problems, learning what measures can be used to counter them, for what budget leading to certain outcomes. There are lots of variables. It is time that those of us who have minds that aren’t clouded by being dunked in the waters, wines or whiskies of self-satisfaction give a big Fail to the present Party-party asap.

    And fight for something done now, each hour that goes by sows seeds of future sadness from some big or small permanent loss.

    • Sabine 6.1

      No the populace obliged by not going to vote. 1 million people could not be arsed to vote. For any of the parties, not national, not labour, not greens, not nothing could not be fucked to get up and fucking vote for the best of their country.

      And if during the next election cycle the same 1 million voters can’t be fucked taking care of their country the same result is to be expected.

      Parties and their policies are one thing, but at some stage some of responsibility goes to people. And if they can’t be fucked to vote they get what they get. Sad innit? That one third of our country men and women don’t care or are so over it that they can’t even vote for the best of their children.

      • Andrew 6.1.1

        I am with you on that Sabine. It is incredibly frustrating. But I don’t know what to do, other than to keep on trying

      • ropata 6.1.2

        Dirty politics & disinformation are typical tactics the right uses to disenfranchise and disempower an entire class of society and discourage them from voting.

        The political process has every appearance of being rigged and shitting on average Kiwis. Politicians are consistently rated as the least trustworthy profession.

        We need to recall the spirit of Kate Sheppard & encourage our neighbours that Voting Changes Things!

  6. millsy 7

    Making money > environment.

  7. saveNZ 8

    +100 Andrew. I totally know what you are going through. The experience of the process and the whole council to environment court process is totally flawed for a democratic outcome at present and the government are even trying to push through draconian reforms for it to be far worse.

    Very poor planning decisions are being made in NZ, from needlessly destroying trees, to putting up inappropriate buildings, to inappropriate designs of businesses that will be a future liability (such as Pike River, transport etc).

    The whole point of the resource consent is being manipulated away from the intended purposed to make sure designs are safe, appealing and appropriate for the community and site it is being proposed for.

    The environment court is not run in any sort of democratic way at present. Paid experts present ‘evidence’ but often it is false or misleading to a small panel. Even if evidence is found to be false or misleading then there is no way to discipline the ‘experts’. Therefore the whole process is a house of cards. Planners and experts are being paid handsomely to put through bills that will create millions for the applicants. Neighbours, communities, rare animals, environmental quality or trees are irrelevant to the process which is about putting the applicant their financial interests and development at all costs first. The council, ‘experts,’ barristers, planners and applicants are all making millions from the flawed process. There are even cases coming to light of applicants intimidating other ‘experts’ into not giving evidence so that they can manipulate the process and even if found out, no consequences are given.

    Even though the current process gets through over 99% of applications no matter how fake or flawed the Nats and Nick Smith want to make sure they can get 100% through and starve the democratic process further.

    Pike river, ports of Auckland, Titirangi trees, The CTV building and many more examples of flawed environmental processes that have either killed people or bizarre rulings have been made which actually do not even make sense under the current rules but are being manipulated by the process so far away from being fair that to even call the process democratic, is a joke.

    An example of how flawed this is even from an economic point of view is how the white elephant conference centre in Christchurch has already cost 15 million dollars without having been built. Rate payer money is being wasted on lawyers (2.5 million) and consultants (2.5million). The developers are getting more money from the delays as the government have made it so political they are prepared to spend any amount of ratepayers money to get it off the ground, even if the design, position and funds are inappropriate for what the people of Christchurch need.

    “The government is already pouring at least $284m into something that no-one asked for and many have questioned whether we need. While there have been delays, we still haven’t seen a business case for the project. We don’t know how it’s going to operate. Instead of ploughing good money into a giant hole the size of two city blocks, it makes sense to wait. But these asshole developers know a sweet deal when they see one, and feel like they might as well try their luck at the Taxpayer ATM. For a bunch of people convinced that the free market will fix the central city, they aren’t too proud to repeatedly milk the public teat for money. These winklepickered parasites need to jump in their Maseratis and take a long drive on a long road out of this town. We will survive without them. There are plenty of good people who can rebuild this city without repeatedly blackmailing the place they’re claiming to save.”

    https://rebuildingchristchurch.wordpress.com/tag/convention-centre/

    In addition ‘convention centres’ are well known as worldwide corporate welfare recipients

    “Another way to think about convention subsidies is the way most economists would — in terms of the opportunity cost. This year, the center authority is spending about $95 million from dedicated tax revenue to subsidize convention business (operating losses at the convention center, marketing expenses, capital improvements and debt service). The city, however, could have used the proceeds from those taxes for other purposes, such as reducing income or property tax rates or giving more services to residents. Because of those forgone opportunities, it is Washington’s taxpayers who are really paying for the convention subsidies.”

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/steven-pearlstein-debunking-the-conventional-wisdom-about-conventions/2014/06/27/77cac02e-fd5f-11e3-932c-0a55b81f48ce_story.html

    Dimpost had a good post on convention centres.
    https://dimpost.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/win-by-not-playing/

  8. Loco Burro 9

    saveNZ – “The CTV building”

    What the hell did the RMA or flawed environmental processes have to do with the collapse of the CTV building?

  9. saveNZ 10

    The “experts” made mistakes in the of the CTV engineering 20 years ago which meant it should never have been issued a building permit.

    Although this was known it was hard to challenge once the initial ‘expert’ had passed the design.

    Inspite of 115 deaths and 29 deaths in Pike river were preventable no one was ever found guilty of manslaughter.

    My point is, that relying on ‘experts’ to do RMA and flawed processes that actually try to stop people from giving evidence and incentivising ‘experts’ to give evidence without them being criminally liable for it, is wrong.

    NZ needs to learn from mistakes. They deregulated the building industry with disastrous results. Now essentially they have deregulated the RMA and it is taking away from the point of the RMA, which is to have safe and well designed proposals that benefit society.

    Not green lighting developers and barristers running the process to make as much money as possible, with zero consequences if any one dies or their proposal has adverse effects on the public or environment that they did not disclose.

  10. saveNZ 11

    When you dismantle all the check and balances in a society, things start going really wrong.

    Democracy is very effective way to run things. When you remove it, you can have very unintended consequences.

    People should have a right to challenge without consequences and without cost, a bad decision. Not be shut out of the process or made to feel inferior because someone else is considered ‘better’ or more ‘informed’.

    Probably someone living close by has as much right and more care to comment than someone who does not live there and is paid to attend and give paid views on the issues.

    • Andrew Neill Robins 11.1

      Hi Savenz

      Agreed. With the issue of the prosed changes to the rules around Christchurchs heritage and notable trees, it was very easy to spot the very basic flaws in the councils position. The quality of the work done on this plan was very poor.

      Despite this, it has cost (so far) over 20k to challenge these obviously flawed arguments. There is even now broad agreement on major changes that need to be made – and yet we still have to keep on spending – all for having the temerity to dare to participate (effectively) in the only forum we had.

      The rest of the country is going to get to experience this soon.

      It is bloody awful

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    Moving And Shaking: There was a time when people spoke matter-of-factly about the “labour movement” – a political phenomenon understood to embrace much more than the Labour Party. Included within the term’s definition was the whole trade union movement – many of whose members looked upon the Labour Party as ...
    1 week ago
  • NZ ‘left’ politically embracing extreme postmodernism
    by Philip Ferguson Much of the left, even people who formally identify as marxists, have collapsed politically in the face of postmodern gender theory of the sort pioneered by American philosopher Judith Butler. For Butler even biological sex is socially constructed. “If the immutable character of sex is contested, perhaps ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • The obvious question
    The media is reporting that the (alleged) Labour party sexual assaulter has resigned from their job at Parliament, which means hopefully he won't be turning up there making people feel unsafe in future. Good. But as with everything about this scandal, it just raises other questions. Most significantly: why the ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • The moment I found out that you found out, I acted swiftly
    By Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern I am every bit as angry as you are. I am every bit as disappointed as you must be. The people with power, oversight and the ability to do something about these processes within the Labour Party should be ashamed. Whoever those people are, I ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • This is why people hate property developers
    Property developers think there is an "oversupply" of houses in Auckland:High turnover rates and falling prices may be a sign that there are too many new houses going in to some parts of Auckland, commentators say. [...] Property developer David Whitburn said there was a "bit of an oversupply" in ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Australia to Pacific: “Fuck you, you can all drown”
    World leaders are meeting in New York in two weeks for the 2019 Climate Action Summit, where they are expected to announce new and more ambitious targets to stop the world from burning. But the Australian Prime Minister won't be there, despite being in the USA at the time:Scott Morrison ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Implausible ignorance
    Labour Party president Nigel Haworth resigned yesterday over the party's sexual assault scandal. But while that's good news, its unlikely to take away the stench of a coverup. Because according to Paula Bennett in Parliament yesterday, pretty much everyone in the Prime Minister's office was involved as well:I have been ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Labour’s Fatal Flaw.
     Two-Faced? Labour insiders' commitment to the neoliberal status quo puts them at odds with their party’s membership; its trade union affiliates; and a majority of Labour voters, but this only serves to strengthen the perception they have of themselves as a special elite. Among the lesser breeds, they’ll talk up a ...
    1 week ago
  • Ten reasons the Tories do NOT want an election
    There has been a lot of talk about Boris Johnson wanting an election, and he has blustered with great gusto about 'chicken' Jeremy Corbyn refusing one, but I think there are many reasons why he is secretly glad he has been refused the opportunity:The Tories are an utter rabble,tearing themselves ...
    1 week ago
  • Prorogation Illegal, rule Scottish judges
    Scottish appeal court judges have declared that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament in the run-up to the October Brexit deadline is unlawful. The three judges, chaired by Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, overturned an earlier ruling that the courts did not have the powers to interfere in the prime ...
    1 week ago
  • Let me explain what I meant by Everyday New Zealanders
    By Simon Bridges. The following is a press release from the office of Simon Bridges, leader of The National Party. Key ora, New Zealand. Happy Maori Language Week. Look, I’m writing to you today because I want to clear something up. There’s been a lot of kerfuffle around some things ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Yes, the SIS is subject to the Public Records Act
    I understand there's some stuff going round about how the SIS "was removed from the list of public offices covered by the Public Records Act in 2017". The context of course being their records derived from US torture, which will be disposed of or sealed. The good news is that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • An evidence-based discussion of the Canadian fluoride/IQ study
    Dr. Christopher Labos and Jonathan Jarry discuss the recent Canadian fluoride/IQ research. They provide an expert analysis of the paper and its problems. Click on image to go to podcast. The critical debate about the recent ...
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: Australia in denial
    Australia is burning down again, and meanwhile its natural disaster minister is denying climate change:Australia’s minister responsible for drought and natural disasters, David Littleproud, has said that he doesn’t “know if climate change is manmade”. Clarifying earlier comments that the question is “irrelevant” when considering the Coalition government’s response to ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Philippines activist speaking on the Duterte tyranny
    Auckland Philippines Solidarity is excited to host Professor Judy Taguiwalo for a speaking tour of NZ in September. She is a well-known activist in the Philippines and was a political prisoner under the Marcos dictatorship. Professor Taguiwalo briefly served as a Cabinet member under President Duterte but was forced from ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Disgust
    I have no special insights to offer on the Labour sexual assault coverup. All I have is disgust. Disgust that an organisation could fail its people so badly. Disgust that they punished the victims rather than the perpetrator. Disgust that its party hacks are apparently blaming the victims for demanding ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speak Up for Women calls out Greens’ censorship
    This open letter to the Green Party was penned after an opinion piece by Jill Abigail, a feminist and founding member of the party, was censored by the Greens’ leadership. (Redline has reprinted her article here).The intolerance of the Green Party leaders and their acceptance of the misogyny of gender ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Member’s Day: End of Life Choice, part 3
    Today is a Member's day, and David Seymour's End of Life Choice Bill continues its slow crawl through its committee stage. They're spending the whole day on it today, though the first hour is likely to be spent on voting left over from last time. After that they'll move on ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Flight to Los Angeles turned back after passengers decide they don’t want to go anymore
    An ambitious plan to fly to Los Angeles petered out into a brief sight-seeing trip and a desire to return home and get some sleep before work tomorrow. Air New Zealand has confirmed a flight to Los Angeles last night was turned back about a quarter of the way into ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Indigenous Futures: defuturing and futuring – an analytical framework for policy development?
    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    2 weeks ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago

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