Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reported back

The Local Government and Environment Committee has reported back [PDF; large] on the Resource Management (Simplifying and Streamlining) Amendment Bill. The bill is the first part of the government's plan to gut the RMA and remove local voices from planning decisions. And unfortunately it still does that. While there have been a number of minor amendments, the key provisions of the bill to reduce notifications, massively increase ministerial call-ins, and generally replace elected and accountable local officials with unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Wellington have been retained. One positive note is that the government's plans for a chainsaw massacre of protected trees in urban areas have been delayed by three years. But that's about all we get. Otherwise its developers uber alles and all hands to the bulldozers.

In reviewing the select committee report, I noticed two particularly awful clauses I hadn't noticed before. The new definition of a "project of national significance" includes the following:

(j) relates to a network utility operation that extends or is proposed to extend to more than 1 district or region.
So Transpower gets its own clause to help it bypass local opposition and ram the pylons through. But the definition of network utility operation also includes roads - so the government will get to call in any significant roading project and be judge in its own case. The latter is a fundamental breach of basic principles of justice, which fatally undermines the legitimacy of such decisions from the outset. We can simply have no confidence in a "consent" granted by such a mockery of a process. But it gets worse, because there's also this:
(h) will assist the Crown in fulfilling its public health, welfare, security, or safety obligations or functions
The select committee report is quite clear about what this is intended to apply to: prisons. People quite rightly object to these, and so the government's "solution" is to make the decision around the Cabinet table and impose it by monarchical fiat. This is Muldoonism, pure and simple. And we should not accept it.