Friday, May 29, 2020

Labour's Muldoonism

Labour's talk of gutting the RMA to push through "shovel ready" projects to boost employment after the pandemic predictably has every half-arsed pipe-dream crawling out of the woodwork demanding special treatment. Today, it's the West Coast inbreds, who are demanding a host of laws be rescinded so they can dig and dam and plunder and profit by destroying our natural heritage. But the article on that also has more details on the legislation itself, and they're pretty frightening:

Some large, Government-led projects — such as roads — would be individually listed in the legislation as going through the fast-track process. This would likely include six larger transport projects already on the books, awaiting resource consents.

More Government-led projects — specifically those led by the Transport Agency (NZTA) and KiwiRail — would be able to “occur as of right”, effectively a standing consent to do things like road and rail maintenance. This could also be extended to local authorities, the Cabinet paper states.

The final piece is a fast-track consenting process for all other projects. A public or private project could apply to the Environment Minister to go through this process, who must then decide whether the project meets a list of criteria, including whether it would have a “significant public benefit”. The minister can reject the application for any reason.

If approved, the project would be referred to an expert panel, led by an Environment Court Judge, to receive consent. A project referred to a panel would be expected to receive consent, the Cabinet paper says.

Which has more than an echo of the piggy cackle about it. Applications to the Minister, reference to an "independent" panel, and the Minister as effective decision-maker looks a lot like Muldoon's National Development Act, which was used to ram through numerous environmental atrocities and treaty breaches. Except that the NDA gave people affected by a development a statutory right to be heard, which the new legislation seems particularly aimed at preventing. Meanwhile, legislating certain projects for the fast-track - which as noted has an expectation of consent - is basicly the government saying "this project is consented, fuck you", exactly as Muldoon did over the Clyde Dam.

As for some projects not needing consent at all, this has been done before after the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes, but that's not exactly a good model: in Kaikōura it led to an occupation when the recovery authority tried to ram a road through an urupā. And the reason they ended up in that situation is because the government didn't need to listen to the public or hear any evidence before deciding what to do, and as a result either had no fucking idea of the actual impacts of its project, or decided it could run roughshod over the local iwi. And the result was entirely predictable. When you ignore people, when you don't even bother to hear the evidence, your decision isn't just bad, it's also illegitimate. And as we've seen in Kaikōura and Ihumātao, if people can't express their opposition through the planning process, they'll do it on the ground instead.

New Zealand's environmental movement was born in opposition to legislation like this and the bad and illegitimate decisions it enabled. It is absolutely shameful then that our primary environmentalist party, the Greens, will be supporting it with their votes.