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Nick Smith is a disgrace

Written By: - Date published: 1:00 pm, March 14th, 2017 - 32 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, Environment, national, Parliament, Politics, same old national, sustainability, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

Nick Smith is one of Bill English’s best mates.  If not for this I suspect he would no longer be a Minister of the Crown.  Because his performance as a Minister is pretty abysmal, even by National standards.

Just consider his handling of the latest round of Resource Management Act changes.

National has a real thing about the RMA.  According to National it is a communist inspired system that prevents entrepreneurs and landowners from enjoying their rights to become rich, rich, rich and causes Auckland’s housing crisis.  The crisis has nothing to do with the huge number of people immigrating to the city, it is all the fault of socialist city planners and the RMA.

National has had a few goes at gutting the RMA during the current term.  It has done weird things like remove protection from urban trees and talk about simplification of the system while making things more complicated.

After eight long years you would have thought that it had made all the changes that it needed to.  But Smith is having another go at the legislation and this latest one is a real doozie.

The latest attempt at reform, a word used in the loosest sense of the word, has so far been a text book example of undemocratic and poorly thought through reform.  Its justification was that the existing law was making it much more expensive to build houses and apartments and that all we needed was a few law changes and everything would be fine.

It has many provisions that if enacted would complicate, not simplify the system.  And it represents a centralised power grab Rob Muldoon would be proud of.

But Smith has had problems with getting the proposals passed.  Essentially every party in Parliament except National thought the proposed reforms were a terrible idea.

The bill was reported back recently.  The opposition minority reports are as scathing as I have ever read.

Labour criticised the bill for a number of aspects including draconian ministerial regulatory powers to override plans and control consents, and to limit rights of participation.  About the ministerial regulation making powers it said:

These are tantamount to a return to the National Development Act 1979, and are on the spectrum of the patently excessive regulation-making powers abused under the former Economic Stabilisation Act 1987.

Light bulbs huh.  The bill contains nanny state on steroids.

The bill also overrides, and allows the Minister to further override local and district council functions in such a broad and fundamental way that it overturns the traditional division of power and roles between central and local government.

The content was not the only thing to be criticised.

The process for passage of this bill has been shambolic, and that is no fault of the committee. The bill was referred to our committee 14 months ago on 3 December 2015. We advertised for submissions and heard them in the new year.

We heard a total of 137 submissions in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch. Many were complex with enormous effort from submitters. Those submissions exposed many, and major, flaws with the bill.

We finished hearing submissions on 2 June 2016. The departmental report was delayed month upon month, with numerous provisional time periods passing. Two extensions to the report-back date were obtained from the Business Committee. Further delays followed. The committee was told this was because Cabinet had not signed off proposed changes to policy positions in the bill as introduced.

Although not confirmed by officials, it was apparent that much of the delay was because the National Government has not had the voting numbers to pass the bill in the House, even if it uses its majority at this committee to force the bill through select committee.

The many months of delay have meant that some members of the committee may have forgotten details of many of the submissions heard many months earlier.

The second-stage departmental report, which the committee only had in draft form until 2 November 2016, ran to over 400 pages.

The Executive plainly could not make up its mind on what it wanted to do, and was consumed by horse trading behind the scenes. The select committee process was being abused.

Government committee members displayed an unwillingness to make whatever changes they believed were necessary, preferring to await direction from the Executive via the long-delayed departmental report. This is a worrisome trend on some committees, where even relatively minor decisions are increasingly given across to the Executive. This delays committee processes, and underutilises the skills and ex-perience of committee members, who after all are the ones who hear the submissions on bills.

And to top things off National members tried to block the inclusion of a minority report when the bill was reported back initially because of time constraints.  How undemocratic can you get?

The Labour opposition members were blocked by the National Party members from including a minority report, which had been prepared and submitted. The National Party members also blocked any report from the committee as a whole, which had been prepared by committee staff. National members took this course after the Clerk of the House of Representatives had been called to the committee, when he advised it would be highly unusual for the majority to block a minority report, and highly unusual for the committee not to report to the house about its proceedings on the bill. The motions were on notice.

As a consequence, the bill was reported back to the House without amendment and without any report from the committee on either the delayed process or the substance of the flawed bill.

The Government then did a deal with the Māori Party and had numbers to get the changes through Parliament.  In an unusual move the bill was sent back to the select committee for further consideration, and major changes resulted.

The bill was not readvertised. The complexity of the changes in the 400 page departmental report were substantial and amount to an effective rewrite of substantial parts of the bill. This is shown by the myriad amendments shown in the version of the bill now being referred back, and the months of redrafting required from Parliamentary Counsel Office.

The bill still contains some of the most controversial measures such as the ability of Smith to override District Plan provisions by regulation.

And one of Nick Smith’s porkies is highlighted in the minority report.

There are clearly extensions to the Minister’s regulation-making powers under the bill. The Minister said on Radio New Zealand on 1 February 2017 that “…there is nothing in the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill before Parliament that makes any changes in respect of the way genetically modified organisms are regulated in New Zealand.” This is patently incorrect. Court decisions have found that RMA plans can legally include rules relating to the use of genetically modified organisms, and that the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 is not a code. The bill introduces a new regulation-making power for the Minister to override those plan rules. The Minister is wrong to assert the contrary. He is also incorrect to assert this as being the same as national direction under national policy statements or national environment standards. Obviously if there was no change being made, the new regulation powers would be redundant.

The Greens were also scathing about the bill in their minority report.

The RMA is a crucial foundation of New Zealand’s environmental law and planning system. Changes to it should be based on sound analysis and evidence and have broad cross-party support so that they are enduring. The bill has neither. Many of the changes appear driven by ideology and anecdote, rather than robust analysis and evidence.

The bill attracted 647 unique submissions and 94 form-style submissions, many of them critical of its fundamental aspects. Many included detailed technical analysis of the bill’s clauses and their implications, and represented a significant investment of time and expertise by submitters.

Resource users such as Fonterra, quarry operators, and infrastructure operators such as airports made similar points in opposition as environmental interests such as Fish and Game New Zealand, the Environmental Defence Society, and Forest and Bird.

Federated Farmers, for example, described the proposed Ministerial regulation-making powers as “excessive” and the provisions which allow central Government to intervene directly in local council plans as “heavy handed”.

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, presenting evidence for Fish and Game, described the regula-tion-making powers which would override the provisions of regional and district plans as a “constitutional outrage”. “Due process is replaced by Executive fiat.”

The Greens also chose to give the process a shellacking.

Through no fault of the committee or its chairperson, the process for considering the bill has been a shambles. The Executive has dominated the select committee’s consid-eration of the bill and stalled progress on it. Hearings on public submissions ended on 2 June 2016, yet officials were unable to provide the select committee with a full departmental report for some five months. The Minister’s influence on the content of the departmental report, and when the committee should receive it, has compromised an effective committee process. It has cut across the committee’s ability to consider submissions and potential amendments in a robust and thoughtful way. Officials repeatedly told committee members that provisions in the bill (such as a national planning template which determines plan content and not just structure) were “policy issues”. The strong implication was that there was no scope for them or the select committee to recommend changes.

They also chose to criticise the changes for making things more complicated, not less.

The bill’s changes to notification were seen almost universally as making the RMA more complicated. There was a consistent and widespread view among submitters that the RMA’s notification procedures, as amended in 2009, were working well with no need for further changes or more limits on public involvement. Many submitters were concerned about the bill providing for blanket non-notification of controlled activities, restricted discretionary and discretionary boundary infringement, and most subdivision and residential activities. For example, not all neighbours are likely to be consulted about developments which infringe on the boundary.

The Green conclusion is as bleak as the Labour conclusion.

The bill is not fit for purpose. It significantly increases ministerial powers while removing or restricting basic rights of public participation. It will expedite development activities with few environmental safeguards and scant consideration of sustainable management. The bill puts private rights and development ahead of the public interest and environmental and community well-being. It should not proceed.

The NZ First report did not waste words.  This is it in its entirety …

New Zealand First strongly opposes every part of the bill. A detailed minority view is therefore pointless. New Zealand First also deplores the extremely poor process by which the bill has been considered by the committee.

For all of these reasons, everything reported in the committee’s report will not be supported by New Zealand First.

Smith is a disgrace.  His willingness to sacrifice all pretence of acting in the public good so he can claim the Government is doing something about the housing crisis is now clearly evident.  Time for him to go.

32 comments on “Nick Smith is a disgrace”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    The RMA was first passed into law back in 1992, under National. Yes it had been grinding through the processes of parliament for some years before that.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      Back in the 1980s National recognised that the people actually did want sustainable environmental practices.

      Now it ignores the people in favour of what rich psychopaths want.

  2. Sabine 2

    He is really just doing his masters bidding. Party above country.

    • mosa 2.1

      ” He is really just doing his masters bidding ” party above country.

      And free water for the Chinese and Crushers Oravida company too boot and wont move against this squandering of our countries resource because it only accounts for a minimal amount of all the water captured so any ” action ” would be a waste of time.

      Spoken like a true National government minister for the environment.

    • NZJester 2.2

      He is really just doing his masters bidding. Party above count

      I think you mean rich party doners above country.

  3. Ad 3

    Mickey have the Ministerial powers survived the version that is being tabled in Parliament this afternoon?

    If not, the Maori Party have done a good job.

    If not, while local government in total may as well pack up and go home, in the next government it will be great fun being the Minister of Command and Control.

    • Sacha 3.1

      “have the Ministerial powers survived the version that is being tabled in Parliament this afternoon?”

      Based on the quotes above from the other parties on the select committee, it sounds like the answer is Yes.

      • Ad 3.1.1

        You would have been smarter to follow the debates and negotiations since that publication. So hold your breath until it’s tabled.

        The Maori Party have been working really hard behind the scenes to kill it.
        Hence the question. The clause may even be defeated on the floor.

        • Sacha 3.1.1.1

          Didn’t it only get reported back because that party had agreed to enough support for the Nats not to end up with egg on their face again? I’d love to believe Te Ururoa and corporate iwi have enough leverage to beat Nuck Smith and a whole lot of property developers, but I’m not holding my breath.

          • Ad 3.1.1.1.1

            You will see in about an hour.

          • Jenny Kirk 3.1.1.1.2

            I think Nick Smith has managed to come up with something in that Bill which allows govt to over-ride the powers of councils and continues to allow fresh waterways to be used for dairying and beef cattle, but in such a way that its more than a bit obscure.
            eg Clause 7 replaces “individual” with “person” in the current s14(3)(b) of the RMA. There is no RMA definition of “individual”). This would allow as of right use of water by, for instance, corporates with highly intensive dairying operations.
            In clause 11 there is a deletion of the current regional council function in s30(1)(c) which is “the control of the use of land for the purpose of …. the prevention or mitigation of any adverse effects of the storage, use, disposal, or transportation of hazardous substances”. The proposed amendment to s30 would exclude local bodies from any regulatory response to any hazardous substances, including precautionary measures for GMOs.

            The latter is what the Maori Party was opposed to. I don’t think they’ve achieved what they wanted.

    • mickysavage 3.2

      Mickey have the Ministerial powers survived the version that is being tabled in Parliament this afternoon?

      I honestly do not know. The reforms veer between being absolutely frozen and then there is intense activity. The activity seems to be designed to throw up that much smoke and dust that ordinary humans and the remnants of the MSM are unable to comprehend the details.

      Then the general public do not get to understand what is happening.

      And the system gets worse.

  4. https://resources.stuff.co.nz/content/dam/images/1/g/o/7/b/l/image.related.StuffLandscapeSixteenByNine.620×349.1hezd8.png/1487882423563.jpg

    Hegelian Dialectics – National party style . ( by small increments )

    ” National has had a few goes at gutting the RMA during the current term. It has done weird things like remove protection from urban trees and talk about simplification of the system while making things more complicated.”

    Find a problem , balls it up and rark a few people off, then offer a solution. Tiresome in its bland monotony. But deadly effective against the Plebs.
    They never learn…..

    • mickysavage 4.1

      Yep and they do make such a meal of the reforms that ordinary people have no idea of what is going on. Until it is too late …

  5. Kevin 5

    he counters Phily Twyfords numbers on housing by using other numbers, and accuses Labour being tricky or even lying. Is this the norm for a politician?

    nick smith statement
    https://beehive.govt.nz/release/labour-being-tricky-housing-numbers?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+beehive-govt-nz%2FMinister%2FNickSmith+%28Nick+Smith+-+beehive.govt.nz%29

    “January dwelling consents were up both nationally (to 1752 January 2017 from 1695 January 2016) and in Auckland (to 512 from 506).

    “The year to January 2017 also confirms ongoing growth nationally from the previous year (to 30,123 from 27,124) and in Auckland (to 10,032 from 9275).

    Phil Twyford statement –
    http://www.labour.org.nz/those_in_glasshouses_dr_smith

    Statistics New Zealand data shows that the trend-adjusted number of dwelling consents in January 2017 was 2,260, down five per cent from 2,368 in January 2016. Trend-adjusted data is used to identify underlying trends in ‘lumpy’ data.

    — My Observation

    is it just me or is this debate rediculous, they are not comparing apples with apples?
    They are both right in their statements,
    nick smith is using 1 whole year figures to January 2017(30,123) which is more than year to january 2016
    and phil twyford is using 1 whole month for january 2017 figures(2,260) and yes this is less than January 2016 figures(2,368)

    Having said that, Phil could argue that conscents are slowing to January at least.
    Also not sure what the January dwelling consents (to 1752 January 2017 from 1695 January 2016) Nick Smith is on about here?

    • Bob 5.1

      Phil Twyford is talking weather, Nick Smith is talking climate, big difference.

      • mickysavage 5.1.1

        I think you mean the other way around? Twyford is referring to trend adjusted figures.

      • Kevin 5.1.2

        my point was, why did he make it out like Phil was lying, “is just plain wrong”. why did he not just what it was.

        weather/climate analogy if i understand u correctly is short term/long term view respectively.

        I still think they are both right in what they say, phil moreso where nick you would have to have a closer look at more datapoints.

    • patricia 5.2

      How many consents actually become houses for people to live in ?

  6. Keith 6

    Really it’s yet another example of how corrupted National are.

    Democratic process, who cares, accurate meaningful statistics, only if they suit, the truth told to New Zealand’s citizens, whatever, millions channeled off to wealthy foreigners, damn how’d they find out, taxhavens for the shadowy elite, our specialty, dirty politics, you bet!

    With leadership like that who needs organised crime!

  7. I’m pretty sure this is “planned failure,” ie. that the National Party is quite aggressively behind this RMA reform and likes the idea of shutting out the opposition parties on it.

    Nick Smith is a competent minister that is frequently given tasks where the National Party goal is to fail deliberately. The real issue is that the National Party isn’t honest in its rhetoric to the public, not that Smith is failing, as ironically he’s one of the few ministers who actually has a grasp on what he’s doing: it’s simply that his goals aren’t always as stated to the public.

    • mickysavage 7.1

      The real issue is that the National Party isn’t honest in its rhetoric to the public

      You are right there …

      Armstrong and Small on Nick Smith’s RMA reforms

    • Bearded Git 7.2

      A competent minister would not support these changes to the RMA.

      • No, an honest and competent minister wouldn’t support those changes to the RMA. A competent dishonest minister like Smith would absolutely support these changes knowing them to be better for the National Party’s constituencies even if they screw over the public at large.

        A successful minister in a National Government is one that can prioritise the party’s real goals while managing not to draw too loud an opposition to them from the public. In that regard, he’s been about as successful as it is possible to be in most of his portfolios, and he’s been given ones that are really hard for National to be their definition of successful in, such as Environment and Housing.

  8. JC 8

    MS. Thanks so much for your post!

    I think it’s a give in that Nick’s a Disgrace! Don’t mention wadeable! or most other things like housing etc…

    Sadly it seems that for some weird reason he has the Maori Party vote to implement this Crox!!

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/325986/govt-secures-maori-party's-support-for-rma-changes

    Just caught Ad’s comments but don’t see how “they’ll” “Kill it”

    Dispite this http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/314483/rma-has-failed-environment-report

  9. Ian 9

    Loved his comment on the anti-bottled water boring bungs today.” like banning tricycles to stop congestion on a motorway”
    Why the media havn’t exposed this group for their obvious lunacy is an indictment on the lack of decent ,truthful jounalism in NZ.

  10. philj 10

    Nick once told a public meeting that cyclists should not expect decent roading for their use because they don’t pay a road users tax! This says a lot about how he doesn’t think.

  11. Tanz 11

    Meanwhile we have leftist mates all over Auckland councils. No one who does not speak the group think need apply. Hmm..talk about shades of Orwell..and mates in high places. Go Nick, he is trying to untie red tape and tangles. Building costs now crazy, need a consent to frigging jib your own house…common sense, not.

  12. Tanz 12

    Also councils in part are responsible for the housing crisis, too much red tape, no one wants to build any more. Red tape, land banking, young kiwis locked out forever. Fair much?

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