Ridiculous, pedantic rules - be gone!

HAMISH RUTHERFORD AND MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 11:13 22/07/2014

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The Government will "crowdsource" for new ideas on how to get rid of "dumb" local and central government regulations, Prime Minister John Key says.

He told the Local Government New Zealand conference in Nelson today that a Rules Reduction Task Force would be established in response to the latest Productivity Commission report. The task force would look at local and central government regulation.

Some rules homeowners faced were "dumb" and "needless bureaucratic hurdles", Key said.

"Some things on the face of it don't make much sense, like making it compulsory for a homeowner to install windows in a room that already lets in a lot of light through the ranch-slider doors," Key told delegates.

The task force would be comprised of officials and tradespeople to "root out local regulation that could be improved".

"We already know there are property owners up and down the country who are frustrated with the regulatory requirements they must meet, and the time and money it takes to complete transactions," Key said.

"The decisions that councils make on regulation affect the whole country."

Finance Minister Bill English has said that local government rules added to construction costs.

Key said the task force would develop ideas with the public.

"It is my intention that we invite ratepayers and homeowners around the country to contribute their thoughts on removing unnecessary rules and regulations via email and social media," Key said.

"If you like, we'll be crowdsourcing ways to reduce the rules and regulations that stop people doing sensible things with their own properties."

"There are some things that homeowners go through because councils are required to implement regulations and rules which are completely outdated, that were written for a particular reason but which no longer work," Key said after his speech.

"Essentially what we're going to say to New Zealanders is 'look, if you can see crazy rules and regulations that you have to comply with, that make no sense, email them to us'.

"We think we'll be able to do a rewrite of a lot of those regulations, particularly for property owners." 

The Government had elected to run a social media campaign because there were people who had "very practical ideas", but who might be put off by needing to make a formal submission.

"[But] if we ask them to be part of the Facebook site or email us their ideas there's a much greater chance that we'll get that," Key said.

He admitted some people might call for greater regulation in particular areas, and this would be taken into account, but he hoped people would focus on the aim of the campaign to cut down regulation.

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LABOUR QUESTIONS MOTIVES

Labour leader David Cunliffe questioned the Government's motives with the plan, given that it had rejected an olive branch to deal with legislation related to house building.

"It's certainly kind of ironic - we offered them the opportunity to split the RMA [Resource Management Act] amendment bill and we would support those elements of the bill that allowed the consenting process to be sped up," Cunliffe said.

"The Government didn't take us up on that opportunity so I wonder if there's a different agenda," said Cunliffe, who was also speaking at the conference.

"What we don't want to see is the kind of reform that would give us another leaky building problem or, God forbid, another Pike River problem because self-regulation was supposed to solve the problem."

Nevertheless, Cunliffe said he supported consulting with the public on the rules.

"I'm in favour of hearing from New Zealanders. If there are annoying little petty things that could be fixed and Kiwis can see them, then by all means they should provide those ideas and we would be keen to hear from them." 

LGNZ PRESIDENT: RULES ARE MIND-BOGGLING

Lawrence Yule, the mayor of Hastings and the President of Local Government New Zealand said he had sympathy for the government's strategy, which seems to belatedly appreciate that local government rules tended to have their origins in national legislation.

"We get all sorts of rules that are put before us and most of them actually come from national legislation; we administer national legislation and some of the rules are mind-boggling for us, but actually, when they get down to the [affected] person's life, they're even more mind boggling."

Initially the government had blamed local government for creating the rules, Yule said.

"When it [the government] actually started investigating local government further and looking at what local government had to do with housing affordability issues, yes, there is a share [of the blame] in that, but there's a while lot of other things that flow into that conversation and it's much more complicated."

The task force is expected begin work by October and to report back to the Government in mid-2015. 

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