Herald on RMA reform

The Herald Editorial proclaims:

John Key said the recession added fresh urgency to the need for changes. In reality, however, these were overdue whatever the economic climate. In the 18 years since its well-intentioned introduction, the act has struggled to be a credible vehicle for genuinely sustainable resource use. Most fundamentally, the mechanisms for issuing consents have been too easily abused. Commercial rivals have used them to handicap competitors by lodging objections, neighbours have settled scores by refusing to consent to housing extensions and suchlike, and too many developers have been at the mercy of rival claimants to tangata whenua status and been charged excessive consultation fees. The upshot in all instances has been unacceptable costs and delays.

We have effectively flushed hundreds of millions of dollars down the drain due to consenting delays.

But, in one respect, Mr Key’s hands have been tied. Notably absent is a proposal to remove references to the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori cultural and spiritual values. It was part of ’s election manifesto but has fallen foul of the new relationship with the Maori Party. Now, somewhat lamely, the Government says the dropping of the Treaty clause has been rendered unnecessary by case law and improved practices.

Welcome to MMP. The jury will be out on this issue, until we see some cases under the revised law. If projects still face significant delays because of arguments over the “life-force” of a river, I won’t be too impressed.

Already, however, the Government has ventured into areas that its green-tinged predecessor would have avoided. In the main, it has trod carefully. In quick time, it has arrived at a better balanced and more consistent Resource Management Act.

It is all about balance, and I think the changes will have a significant impact on our economic growth – especially with the looming infrastructure spending.

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