Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What about the penalty regime?

So far I've been critical of the government's proposed changes to the RMA on the grounds that they will undermine community participation. But the proposals also include substantial increases to the penalties for breaching the Act, including the ability for the courts to cancel resource consents in egregious cases. Isn't that a Good Thing?

Sure it is. But its completely undermined by the fact that local authorities practically never prosecute for violating the Act, even in egregious cases. Penalties which are never applied are no deterrent at all, and making them harsher won't change that. If we want to improve environmental compliance, then we need to actually start prosecuting people. Which is a possible role for National's new "Environmental Protection Authority" right there...