- Date published:
8:07 am, September 21st, 2010 - 26 comments
Categories: democracy under attack, housing, local government, transport - Tags: CERRA, gerry brownlee, gerry brownlee enabling act
On Thursday, our new dictator Gerry Brownlee decreed by Order in Council that the following Acts of Parliament were amended: the Building Act, the Local Government Act, the Resource Management Act, various pieces of transport legislation, and the Civil Defence Act (the Social Security Regulations were also amended by ordinary ministerial powers and an Order in Council activating emergency provisions in the Taxation Administration Act was promulgated).
Most laws and regulations a government (even a bad government) implements are pretty non-contentious and so it is with most of these diktats. There’s the minutiae of government, like ensuring people who get earthquake donations aren’t chased for tax on the income (you can imagine the journos jumping on a story like that).
But there’s some other stuff that’s not so innocuous.
The powers granted to agents of the State like Police under the Civil Defence Act during a state of emergency have been extended. These extraordinary powers (like the power to “to examine, mark, seize, sample, secure, disinfect, or destroy any property, animal, or any other thing”) and additional offences remain in place even though the state of emergency is now lifted.
I understand that during an emergency these powers may be necessary but only during an emergency. If the state of emergency is over, State agents should not be allowed to hang on to these extended powers. If the situation is such that those powers are still legitimately needed then the state of emergency should remain in place – that’s what it’s for.
The amendments to the Local Government Act remove (amongst other things) requirements for good decision-making by the Canterbury councils. They are “in the course of the decision-making process,— (a) seek to identify all reasonably practicable options for the achievement of the objective of a decision; and (b) assess those options by considering— (i) the benefits and costs of each option in terms of the present and future social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of the district or region”
So councils are now free to govern by guesswork and without considering the consequences. This is supposedly meant to speed things up. But if these requirements aren’t necessary why do we have them at all?
The fact is that council decisions should always be made in light of “the benefits and costs of each option in terms of the present and future social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being”. In the rebuilding after a disaster, which can be a time of opportunity, a chance to forge a new path, it is even more important that these issues are taken into account.
Then there’s the amendments to the transport legislation. These allow overweight and over-dimension trucks to drive anywhere in the country as long as they have the permission of one of the Canterbury councils and it can be said to be in some way related to the earthquake.
There will be 122 sets of crossed fingers in Parliament hoping that an overloaded truck of wine going to a warehouse in Christchurch, or something equally banal, doesn’t crash and kill someone thanks to this law. After all, we have weight and dimension restrictions for good reason and I see no sound rationale as to why they need to be relaxed.
If anything does go wrong, we’ll know who to blame – the people who made Brownlee dictator.