Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce's challenge that local and central government should be releasing the handbrake on economic development is an interesting one.
His comments, to the National Economic Development Association forum in Queenstown on Wednesday, included a concern that New Zealand could miss the bus with the massive opportunities for economic development and growth presented by Asia. It was time to "mitigate concerns and assess risks" rather than flat-out refuse opportunities for foreign investment and economic development opportunities, he said.
One of the biggest obstacles to success was council attitudes, which were improving but still had a long way to go, he said.
"There's a level of realism in the marketplace that hasn't been there for a long time. New Zealanders now understand you can't argue for jobs and then not do some things."
These comments could easily be applied to Marlborough, where the regional development portfolio has pretty much been left on the shelf until this year.
Some developers have accused the Marlborough District Council of being less than helpful, and it has appointed a new officer to be a friendly face and a liaison person. But there is only so much the council can do.
If, by chance, the minister is hinting that the council should make life easier for a company such as NZ King Salmon in its bid to develop nine new fish farms in the Marlborough Sounds, then he is going too far. The application is for development in restricted waters and the process needs to run its course before the Environmental Protection Authority. The "handbrake" has been applied for a very good reason.
The Government is known to be keen on this sort of export-earning expansion, and has ruled the King Salmon plan to be a project of national significance. But the application goes against the Sounds management plan - a document developed after lengthy community input and consultation - which cannot be stomped on just so we don't "miss the bus".
The EPA is the place to assess the concerns and mitigate the risks - which may mean saying "no" - in a process already far more streamlined than the usual route under the Resource Management Act. And in the end, there may be no economic benefits from the expansion for the region.
At least Mr Joyce is not suggesting "development at any cost". The checks and balances are there for a reason.
- The Marlborough Express