Why the RMA needed reform

March 21st, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Today’s NZ Herald editorial is a timely reminder of why the needed reform:

When the supermarket chain Foodstuffs made the decision to establish a Pak ‘n Save on North Shore’s Wairau Rd, the internet had just been invented, cellphones were the size of bricks, Auckland’s boroughs were being amalgamated into four cities and the Resource Management Act had arrived.

Actually it was the Web that had just been invented, not the Internet.

So began a 20 year saga in the councils, courts and tribunals of environmental appeal that ended quietly on Wednesday’s deadline for an appeal against Foodstuffs’ latest consent. Finally its rival, Progressive Enterprises, appears to have given up.

Under the new proposed law, competitors can not use the Act to try and stop competition.

Whatever its commercial success, the supermarket will stand as a stark symbol of the follies of planning law that invites objections too widely and permits too many appeals. Applicants and objectors needs only a fair hearing and a decisive ruling. This case has been a disgrace.

It has been. Yet the Greens and Labour are against the new law.

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19 Responses to “Why the RMA needed reform”

  1. Doug (410 comments) says:

    And the RMA still rolls on in Te Awamutu.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/2281178/Residents-condemn-grocery-war

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  2. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Sorry, the present reforms will not stop a repeat of this sorry tale.

    Indeed as things stand they will become far more common.
    See my NBR columns today.

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  3. peterwn (3,273 comments) says:

    Owen could well be right. If ‘Progressive’ did not have standing, it presumably could have induced a local organisation to spring up who did have ‘standing’ because for example traffic issues.

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  4. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    That is probably taken care of by the amedments.
    The problem is that the Council planners are the worst offenders in the desire to centrally plan urban economies.
    Here is an extract from my NBR column:

    Absolutely Negatively Wellington.
    The RMA Amendment Bill makes a good attempt to prevent trade competitors using the RMA processes to stifle their competition. A whole new Part of the RMA, Part 11A, Act Not to be used to oppose Trade Competitors, seems to cover the ground in relation to objections to applications, while a new Section 51 also confirms that Local Authorities when preparing plans “shall not have regard to trade competition or the effects of trade competition.”
    However, this may not be strong enough wording to prevent councils including “retail hierarchies” in their plans, which are then used to refuse consents to applicants who fall outside the preferred locations or the preferred scale of retail cente. For example Wellington City’s Proposed Plan Change 66 openly declares its intention to:
    “Manage the location and scale of retail activities and integrated retail developments to ensure that they do not adversely impact on the sustainability of the Golden Mile and, where applicable, other identified Suburban Centre retail areas.”
    The Golden Mile is the main shopping street in the Wellington CBD, and sustainability is a PC code word for profitability. So in this case the “anti-competitive” agent is the council itself.
    The end result is that any existing retailer, anywhere in Wellington City, can oppose any proposal to open a new retail facility anywhere in the City, on the grounds that it conflicts with this objective. When times are tough they will certainly do so.
    The Government must amend the current Amendment Bill to stop this anti-development and anti-employment planning in its tracks.

    The North Shore Plan also has a similar “Retail hierarchy” policy and Progressive were simply able to argue that the Pac N Save was against the objectives and policies of the plan.
    And yet Wellington City is about to repeat the “disgrace” but on a truly grand scale. And so I believe is Christchurch.

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  5. s.russell (1,642 comments) says:

    There was a similar case some years ago in the Wellington suburb of Kilbirnie, again involving a proposed Pak ‘N Save. Fortunately the wrangling did not last as long as the North Shore Case, but it still took too long.

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  6. Neil (586 comments) says:

    I am a councillor and also a hearing commissioner on resource consents in a small TLA in the South Island.
    Our council had an excellent presentation from a law firm about the RMA earlier this week. Note, a law firm. It is an indication that the law firms see this area as a continuation of fertile big money disputes.
    There is much work to be done on the bill, especially in defining things like environment,competition etc and clarifying the contents of the bill.Its wording and compilation has been done in a hurry. Hopefully a good bill will come out of the select committee.
    I don’t think we will see the end of disputes. because good lawyers can soon find loop holes.
    Getting rid of vexatious disputes like the wind farm problems would be a real triumph. Especially to get of the fly by night environmentalists who when they lose a case fold up and dissolve their group with no payment of costs.
    Any appeals need to see substantial deposit of cash before they can enter the dispute.
    Don’t expect this bill to be a developers delight, even though it evens things up a bit.

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  7. Ross Miller (1,704 comments) says:

    I repeat again.

    Labour by its opposition to the RMA reforms has become TOTALLY TOTALLY irrelevant to the political process.

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  8. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    The RMA should be reformed for another very good reason – to cut down on the amount of public money spent on RMA lawyers.

    Either that or an annual cull of RMA lawyers to keep their numbers down.

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  9. PhilBest (5,121 comments) says:

    Owen McShane, could you please give us your summary of the projects that have been abandoned now after years of RMA wrangling, that could have been the “stimulus” our economy needed, at no cost to the taxpayer, in fact, of substantial net benefit to the economy?

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  10. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    It seems to me the RMA was always a bureaucratic stick to keep the two bobs ( peasants ) in line. As with any government (governments ) that do not wish the people to have the finial say the RMA was used as a big stick to extort vase sums of money from the poor saps. The RMA is a socialist disease. We are told we live in a democratic country, yeah and I’m a horses arse, why can’t the community decide what project, be it a new house or a new supermarket that gets the tick. Why do we hand over our country to blood sucking leeches that wouldn’t know what a days work was ever if it kick them in the arse.

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  11. kiki (425 comments) says:

    sideshowbob I think the RMA was to give the peasants a say in their environment and the changes to it. It has just been highjacked by others with interests that aren’t environmental.

    also Neil so what is a TLA? but as you are a councilor I find it interesting that you believe only those with money should have a say.

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  12. WebWrat (516 comments) says:

    “Any appeals need to see substantial deposit of cash before they can enter the dispute.”

    So Neil, my local council gave my rates money to a private company (Central Plains Water) to take my land, David Bent-Pope gave this same company acquiring authority to take my land under the ‘Works Act’ and you think that if I have no money, I shouldn’t be allowed to fight these fucking mongrels to preserve my private property and basic human rights?

    http://tinyurl.com/ceuvkr

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  13. kiki (425 comments) says:

    Elite’s with their privileges

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  14. WebWrat (516 comments) says:

    # kiki (205) Vote: Add rating 0 Subtract rating 0 Says:
    March 22nd, 2009 at 12:31 am

    Elite’s with their privileges
    …………

    ??

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  15. kiki (425 comments) says:

    It’s from Roger Douglas where elite are those with some form of power and their privileges are what they gain for themselves with their power.

    Here there are councillors and most likely large land owners who are using their connections to take from others in the form of land and money to give themselves capital gain or more power.

    I have been thinking about this for some time and one solution I had was that those who’s land is being taken or lowered in value should have the right to take an equivalent amount of land in an area that is to benefit. The person who’s land in the beneficial area is now being taken should then receive market value + 10%. This would then be closer to the actual cost that would be incurred.

    I have found some of those that trumpet the sanctity of private property go strangely quite when their side are involved in the theft.

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  16. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Philbest,
    I have no idea how many billions of dollars worth of investment have been abandoned in the past.
    However, every day I read in the news of some project being turned down, to the delight of “the community” even though the lost jobs amount to far more than some losses from existing companies reported in the same newspaper.
    At present the major grit in the gear box is all the families and small firms abandoning projects because of compliance costs and in particular development contributions (actually development fines) for creating a new lot, building a new house, or building a new factory or office.
    These fines are imposed before you even get title or permit so they really put on the breaks at times like these when they have to be funded out of cash in the bank (the banks won’t finance them) rather than out of revenues.
    We tax cigarettes to stop smoking and the last government decided to let local governments (TLAs) tax development to stop …..?

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  17. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Sorry, cannot post images but will send it to DPF and he can do the job.

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  18. WebWrat (516 comments) says:

    Thanks kiki.

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