This is almost too bizarre to be true, but sadly it is. Duncan Garner writes:
This is a tale of a breath-taking rip-off.
It’s about a decent hard-working guy merely trying to build a house.
He is being gouged financially as part of the planning and consent process.
It’s no wonder we have a nationwide housing shortage when these sorts of disgraces are taking place.
This house construction was supposed to have started months ago at a site that needed some native bush and vegetation cleared. An arborist was called in and prepared a report.
But the local council then elevated it and demanded a whole new plan including an “ecological assessment of any likely/potential adverse effects caused by the clearance”.
Officials also wanted a restoration plan outlining what “supplementary planting” and “weed management” would take place.
Remember this aspiring home owner actually owns the land he is building on.
The council said this must include “subcontracting a lizard specialist to assess whether a lizard management plan would also be needed”. Sorry? A what?
Officials needed to know whether lizards or native geckos exist at the property . . . and whether their lives are in danger.
The work for this new plan would be $3000 plus GST. The cost of the lizard survey was extra – and estimated to be about $1600.
A lizard management plan. Is there a better example of the culture problem that exists at so many councils.
Under local planning rules and the Resource Management Act he must consult with local iwi groups.
They must be notified of his plan to cut down some of the native bush.
All six interested iwi groups have to be contacted.
Some of these iwi groups live hundreds of kilometres away from the building site, but have historical connections to the area.
Three of these groups have so far asked for initial site visits.
These don’t come cheap either. One of the iwi is charging $240 an hour, plus travel costs (and excluding GST).
This iwi goes on to say should a proper cultural impact assessment be needed they will provide the details of the costs involved.
Another iwi group say they see the trees as “taonga in need of protection from climate change, disease and ongoing development and they generally oppose the removal or felling of native trees”.
They also want an initial site visit to assess whether a wider cultural assessment is needed – but the kaitiaki (guardian) can’t do it till April.
Again this is bush on his land.
Apparently some bloke turned up for lizard patrol one night with a torch, barely knowing what he was looking for – and found nothing.
So far they’ve found one lizard in total – 500 metres away from the building site!
I’m sorry, this is a sick joke. It’s a rort and hard-working people are being ripped off.
Yes, we need planning rules and a consent process. But the RMA has created a cottage industry of outrageous ripoffs in the name of cultural political correctness.
This particular consent has been held up for months because iwi groups are gaming the system.
Councils are clearly misinterpreting the law and too many groups have too much power over private property.
This is an abuse of the system. It may be legal but it’s not right.
Government ministers need to read this and do something about it.
Well a major RMA reform bill is before Parliament. But if Northland votes for Winston Peters on Saturday, then the reform will fail (in its current form) and the status quo will continue.