News

04, May, 2020

RMA Fast Track on the Wrong Track with Democracy Heist


Category: ECO Inc

“The government is using COVID-19 as an excuse to dispense with public input in the fast tracking of its selected projects”, says Cath Wallace co-chair of the umbrella group of environmental organisations, ECO.

“This will lead to poor outcomes, and amounts to a heist of democratic process.”

This isn’t first time the government has produced over riding legislation.  “Shane Jones and Phil Twyford were already wanting to centralise decision making and to over-ride consenting processes and public participation well before COVID.”

“The Urban Development Bill and the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill, both predated COVID and published in December 2019 both gave central government powers to override regional and local resource management plans and consents. This fast tracking has nothing to do with COVID.”

It is well known that “Think Big” projects – especially those done in a massive hurry and without input from people on the ground, tend to be disasters.

The new proposals exclude the public and would only allow 25 days for decision makers, or 50 days for a few of the projects to be decided.  We can expect that people opposed to projects will have to resort to direct action.

This is bad policy and is a heist of democracy.  It is being passed off as about employment post COVID, but that is just an excuse.  Many job-rich, local and smaller projects would be far better than huge capital projects.

“Smaller projects have a much lower job-capital or job-expenditure ratios and some don’t need RMA consents.”

The government is heading fast down the wrong track and New Zealand will miss the opportunity to re-gear the economy to transition to be genuinely job-rich and sustainable with green recovery that is consistent with responding to the climate change and biodiversity crises.

“We do not believe that this fast tracking of major projects will give good outcomes.  We deplore the over-ride of public processes. and call on the government to strengthen public participation by signing up to the UN’s Aarhus Convention.

“The legitimacy and trust the government had built up through its handling of the pandemic response must be enhanced, not squandered” says Cath Wallace.

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Notes:
  • The Urban Development Bill was introduced on 13 December 2019. Clauses 60 and 66, only require consideration of national plans and standards under the RMA and do not require any consideration of local plans.  S70 does not require public consultation.  This Bill also allows Special Development Vehicles to take over and repurpose a range of reserves.

  • The Infrastructure Funding and Financing Bill was introduced on 19 December 2019 and also gives development authorities over-ride powers.

  • The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was adopted on 25th June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus. The Convention creates legally binding rights of access to information, participation and access to justice on environmental matters. Read more about the Convention here:  https://www.unece.org/env/pp/introduction.html

 



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