Thursday, February 28, 2013

Removing democracy from the RMA

Another year, another push by government to "reform" the RMA to make it easier for its cronies to dig, bulldoze, and build whatever, where-ever, without having to listen to anybody else. While many of the proposals in their discussion document [PDF] are technical, the substantive ones are horrifying, including:

  • adding a development clause to the "matters of national importance", while weakening heritage protection and public access to beaches and rivers, and removing intrinsic environmental values and amenity values;
  • allowing Ministers to direct local bodies to change their plans in specified ways, and if unhappy with the results, amend them directly - basically over-ruling the elected representative sof local communities;
  • allowing the government to draft National Policy Statements for local areas (and hence further dictate the content of local plans). So for example they could draft an NPS for the management of water in Canterbury, again over-ruling local elected representatives.
  • allowing MfE or EPA to basically write everyone's plans through a highly detailed "national template";
  • reducing notifications, consent requirements, and appeal rights;
  • allowing the Minister to regulate for some types of consent decisions which do not meet call-in criteria to be made not by local councils but by an (unspecified) national body
The over-arching themes here are once again limiting local input and having more decisions made in Wellington (where lobbyists can secretly grease the Minister's palm), while reducing environmental protection and appeal-rights. Which in turn means more dodgy decisions, as councils and Ministers will be held to the law less. These are not good reforms, and they should not be progressed. The whole point of the RMA is local decision-making to meet local priorities. But National has never liked that - too democratic. They'd rather take us back to the days of Muldoon, where everything is decided in the Minister's office over whiskey If you want to submit, details are here.