Don Brash attacks 'preferential treatment' for Maori in RMA reforms
Plans to streamline the Resource Management Act (RMA) are "pathetically limited" and would come at the expense of extending preferential treatment for Maori, former National Party leader Don Brash claims.
NZ First leader Winston Peters again offered to work with the Government on proposed RMA reforms instead of the Maori Party, after Brash addressed Parliament's local government and environment committee on Thursday.
Concessions made by the Government to win Maori Party support for the reforms include giving iwi the right to be consulted "at the front end" of resource management and council planning through Iwi Participation Agreements.
Brash, best known for his controversial Orewa speech in 2004 arguing against special status for Maori, told the committee that the National Party had always accepted fundamental reforms to the RMA were needed.
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"If I was asked what single measure the Government could take to raise living standards in New Zealand, I would without hesitation answer, 'Reform the RMA'."
However, the proposed legislation was "pitifully limited" and would do little to resolve the existing problems, Brash said.
"By widespread consent, these reforms barely scratch the surface of what is needed."
In addition, the "extremely modest" changes had been "bought at the cost of greatly extending the rights of those with a Maori ancestor to have a preferential involvement in the decision-making process".
'VIOLATES PRINCIPLE OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE'
The proposed legislation would vastly extend the preferential treatment already offered to Maori in the RMA process through the iwi agreements, Brash said.
"This is surely a recipe for further delay, for corruption, and for anger on behalf of the rest of the community...
"It is incomprehensible to me how a National Party-led government could propose a bill which violates the very principle of democratic governance."
Brash said Peters, who has attacked the Government's compromise with the Maori Party and made overtures to back separate RMA reforms, offered a "vastly better alternative".
'ENORMOUS POWERS' QUESTIONED
Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox asked what Brash thought of a recent Waitangi Tribunal finding that Maori did not cede sovereignty when signing the Treaty, to which he replied: "Very briefly, b******s."
National MP Nuk Korako was sceptical about Brash's claims of "enormous decision-making powers" for Maori, saying they were not backed up by the plans.
"What you're saying are there are these great powers, great decision-making powers, but where are they in the bill?"
However, Brash said requiring local authorities to consult with iwi would add bureaucracy and delay to the process.
RMA OFFER RE-STATED
After the committee meeting, Peters re-stated his willingness to work with the National Party on RMA reforms.
"The National Party said it was going to be the most important issue during this term - it's far bigger than that, it's the most important issue in politics now.
"We want to see proper reform...that's not going to happen now."
Environment Minister Nick Smith dismissed Peters' and Brash's concerns about the reforms, saying the iwi partnership agreements would streamline and formalise the consultation process between Maori and the Crown.
"The real difficulty for councils when they're receiving thousands and thousands of consents is trying to differentiate where iwi have a proper interest.
"The council will know at the beginning that iwi have a particular concern about this water body, and all those thousands of consents that are about building issues, of which they actually have very little interest, would not be involved."
Claims that the reforms would increase the requirement to consult with iwi were "just rubbish", Smith said.