Remember when a few leaders ago then National Leader Simon Bridges promised that National would be a 56 MP policy machine?
Judging by its response to the Government’s release of two bills at the centre of RMA reform the machine has major problems.
From Russell Palmer at RNZ:
Party leader Christopher Luxon this afternoon said they were still digesting Labour’s more than 800-page proposal, but had already identified three big problems.
“The first is around … adding another layer of bureaucracy; the second piece is really around rising levels of uncertainty and complexity that I think will lead to more interpretation from bureaucrats and also courts; the final thing is it’s taking 10 years to get implemented and that’s just way too long,” he said.
“There’s elements that will be positive I’m sure and that we’ll agree with and like – I think some of the things I initially saw around fast-tracking, and embedding that’s a good thing – but at this point we want to digest it further.”
“It’s gonna cause huge amounts of debate and discussion for the next three years and nothing fundamentally will change. We don’t have time for that – we’re in a turnaround mode for this country and we need to get things done.”
National is acting like the release of the bill has caught them by surprise. Which of itself is surprising because the development of these bills has been more public than any other piece of legislation I can think of.
First up there was the Randerson Review where an independent panel analysed the existing law and provided recommendations in a 531 page report.
In response to the proposal then National leader Judith Collins said this:
We will replace it with two new pieces of law: an Environment Standards Act, setting our environmental bottom lines; and an Urban Planning and Development Act, giving clarity and consistency. We will begin this work in our first 100 days.
“We will introduce new legislation by the end of next year,” she said earlier this month.
I do not know if she was reading the tea leaves and wanted to preempt the Government’s next steps or if it took up her offer but this is what the Government has done. And her suggestion that National would have a bill ready in a short period of time appears to be hopelessly optimistic.
Then there was the release of an initial draft of the Natural and Built Environments Act and a select committee inquiry into the draft. I presume National MPs were present and actually did their job of coming to grips with the draft.
There have been regular newsletters, a Local Government steering group, a number of speeches by Minister David Parker, and a slew of information on Ministry for the Environment’s website. The development of these bills has been a very public process.
Which is why Luxon’s response is so bizarre. Complaining about too many bureaucrats and then saying implementation will take too long, ironically highlighting the need for more not less bureaucrats, is cheap lazy point scoring on an issue that needs to be taken seriously.
56 MP policy machine? At a time when there needs to be a principled discussion about a complex reform proposal National is missing in action.