RMA reform – the good, the bad, and the ugly

National’s proposed RMA reforms have been released. The official summary is on Scoop. There’s some good in there and some bad. Reform of the RMA is certainly needed, it’s a horribly bloated piece of legislation. A few things that jump out are:

Removing frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections
Good idea to get rid of anti-competitive objections. But what is “frivolous” or “vexatious”? Those words could mean anything. In practice this means:

  • Allowing the Environment Court to require security for costs.
  • Increasing the fee to appeal to the Environment court from $55 to $500.

Basically they are saying that any appeal from someone who is too poor to afford $500 plus an unspecified security deposit (could be thousands) is “frivolous”, and anyone who can afford that is not. This allows the wealthy greater access to justice than the poor and community organisations, and is a very bad move in my mind.

Streamlining decision making

  • This involves creating an Environmental Protection Agency (ie more bureaucracy) to determine whether a project is of national significance or not and push it through.
    I have no problem with streamlining things, but do we really need more bureaucrats to do less bureaucracy? Surely if it were streamlined we would need fewer bureaucrats?
  • Projects that are not of national significance can be sent directly to the Environment Court without the need to go through the local authority consenting process first.
    I understand the reason behind this. Currently our community is fighting the CPW irrigation scheme, and many organisations have spent thousands fighting the consents process knowing they will end up in the environment court anyway so their money is being wasted. But we need provision for one hearing, and one appeal. If the one E.Court hearing is the final decision, there is no backup if the first decision is faulty.

Minor changes to speed things up

  • Removing the ability for appellants to make general challenges or ones that seek the withdrawal of entire proposed policy statements and plans. But what if you have genuine concerns about the entire proposal?
  • Simplifying the process so that local authority decisions on submissions do not need to be made in respect of each individual submission but are to be made according to issues raised. Very sensible.
  • If consents are processed late, the fee must be discounted. Sounds like they were reading Family Party policy regarding building consents – this is a great idea. Can we have it for building consents too?
  • Allow local authorities to take enforcement action against the Crown. Also good.

So all up there is a lot to help push through big projects, a few things to help people with minor applications, and a definite bias against objectors regardless of whether their complaint is valid.

And still NO mention of private property rights ANYWHERE.

On average it may be more positive than negative, but there is a lot in there to be very concerned about. If they would only affirm common law private property rights they could throw away most of the RMA, just keeping a few bits that genuinely relate to Resource Management – such as permits for water abstraction etc. But unfortunately NZ elected a bunch of politicians who don’t have the guts to do that.

Other views:

Not PC thinks National is paving the way for Think Big 2.0

I am embarrassed to admit I actually agree with Russel Norman (Green Party):

However, increasing the filing fees for Environment Court cases and the requirement for security of costs will silence legitimate public input into local decision making. … How many community groups, made up of regular citizens, not millionaires, can come up with tens of thousands of dollars in security when they are trying to protect a coastal area from a property speculator?

Federated Farmers calls it “an ok first stab”, but has some concerns:

Some farmers will be dubious about changes that are aimed at streamlining projects of national significance and improving national instruments, without strengthening the rights of individuals to receive compensation.

Remember the Bill will be introduced later this month and open for public submissions.

Family Party on Economic Crisis

The Family Party have released our strategy on the economic crisis. As we analysed the issue we found that our policies were already very good regarding the global situation. Our strategy:

  • Recognises that we need a cross-party response, and we wish to work with the expertise of National and Act post-election to manage the crisis.
  • Promotes economic activity within NZ to work out of the crisis.
  • Eases the burden on families during the crisis.

I would encourage you to read the full strategy. Some key points are:

  • Keeping more money in the economy through
    • Lower taxes
    • Reducing bureaucracy
    • Repealing the ETS, withdrawing from Kyoto
    • Interest rate cuts
    • An urgent review of all public sector expenditure
  • Helping families through
    • Targeted tax cuts (GST off essentials)
    • Favouring NZ companies for government contracts (maintaining employment in NZ)
    • Maintaining and expanding (where possible) employment in law enforcement and defence
    • Work-for-the-dole as a final resort if despite all the above unemployment still rises significantly, if you are paying people the dole anyway they may as well be doing something useful

We support a government guarantee of deposits because everyone else is doing it, and we risk funds being moved over to countries where there are these guarantees if we don’t do it too, risky as it may be. But our guarantee would only be extended to reputable firms and would be reviewed every six months, so is far more sensible than Labour’s very risky all-inclusive long-term guarantee.

I believe this is a very balanced response to the crisis, and takes care of the key issues for both families and the wider economy. But we recognise that we don’t know everything, and we need a National-led government to have the expertise to manage this crisis, with us in there too to ensure families are supported.

National undermines Working For Families

National’s economic package, including their proposed tax cuts, has been released. Overall it is fairly sensible stuff, a range of tax cuts across the board that is funded by tweaking Kiwisaver, and removing the tax credit for research and development – both policies can be criticised certainly, and I need to look more into the R&D issue before I can conclude this is ok, but remembering we are in tough economic times I think they are probably being reasonable.

But the policy also includes an “Independent Earner Rebate” for people not receiving Working For Families tax credits.

The package would cover those earning between $24,000 and $50,000 and would give workers $10 a week in the first year, eventually rising to $15 a week.

The whole point of Working For Families is to give extra help for families as opposed to single people. If you give similar tax rebates to single people as well, you destroy the entire point of having tax rebates in the first place. If they are going to treat everyone the same they may as well just ditch WFF and cut tax by an equivalent amount in a way that will benefit low-income earners. Far less paperwork, same result.

Furthermore, they are adding more bureaucracy and more central government expenditure around the tax system, when they claim to be trying to reduce bureaucracy. And instead of just working families being on a benefit, now pretty well everyone in the country would be on a benefit. This is actually more socialist than Labour’s policy.

This shows why we need a National-led government rather than a Labour-led one, because on the whole National should be better at managing the economy. But it also shows why we need National in coalition with minor parties, ideally The Family Party and Act, rather than ruling alone, to keep them on track and ensure they don’t have free reign to do whatever they like.

EDIT: They may be more cunning than I thought. If they canned WFF they may risk losing the election, but if they give an equivalent tax rebate to everyone they could get people used to this then propose in a few years canning both and introducing an equivalent tax cut, thus getting rid of WFF while retaining public support. Hmmm, in that case we really need The Family Party in there pushing for income splitting to ensure families aren’t forgotten about.

We have an ETS

Labour’s emissions trading scheme has been passed into law. This is a sad day for New Zealand. And virtually no attention was given to this massive law, the biggest reform since Rogernomics, by the TV media – everyone was focussed on the Winston Peters scandal. That scandal is completely unimportant by comparison, it just made good headlines.

National could have prevented this law being passed, at least today, as they could have delayed it until tomorrow by which stage Winston Peters may be fired. But they appeared to make little effort to do this in parliament today, rather allowing it to go through.

This means New Zealand has ended up with a terribly faulty piece of rushed legislation, that could do immense damage to our economy. National may modify it somewhat, but it will still do a lot of damage.

But National allowed it to be passed today probably because this means they can blame any problems with it on Labour, rather than taking the blame themselves as they would have to if they introduced one.

This is blatant politicising, not working for the good of the country.

If you want this legislation repealed, as every person who cares about the environment and the economy should, there are only two parties that will push for this – The Family Party and Act.

I mention both parties, rather than just pushing the Family Party, because this issue is far too important to just use to gain votes. It could be the biggest issue affecting the country today. There are two parties who will seek to have it repealed, and together we may achieve this. It is too big for one minor party to tackle on their own.

But a vote for National is a vote to keep this disasterous legislation, with some minor tweaks.

EDIT:

Family Party press release on the ETS.

EDIT2:

Federated Farmers are justifiably annoyed with this, read their response here.

ETS not about reducing emissions

There is an excellent editorial in the Dominion Post about the ETS. It points out that the ETS is not designed to reduce emissions, rather to work out who pays for our Kyoto obligation. And in paying our Kyoto obligation, it is taking money that could be being used to actually reduce emissions.

“There is no question that Labour is well-intentioned. Despite that, the legislation is part of a strategy that remains deeply flawed. It risks concentrating on the accountancy of who ends up picking up the bill for carbon emissions, rather than on reducing those emissions.

The reality is that the scheme, designed to meet New Zealand’s Kyoto protocol commitment, will end up increasing the prices that consumers pay for all manner of things, and damage the economy, without necessarily doing anything about reducing the amount of carbon emitted in New Zealand.”

Assuming humans are causing global warming, the ETS is a waste of money. Assuming humans are not causing global warming, the ETS is a criminal waste of money. You can’t win with this legislation. Yet both Labour and National continue to push it.

Hat tip: David Farrar

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.