OPINION: Streamlining is good, right?
It depends. Yes, if you're competing in the America's Cup. No if you're on one of those slippery slopes we're so often warned against, in which case a bit of friction and resistance mightn't be such a bad thing.
Consistency, then? Good old dependable consistency. The least you deserve? Yes, provided you like the way it's being applied to you. When you don't, you tend to call it inflexibility.
Clarity is generally admirable, unless all it reveals is a newfound emptiness within a structure in which you were rather hoping to find something more substantial.
All of which serves as a lumbering re-introduction to the tensions inherent in an revisitation of our elephantine Resource Management Act, which the Government has lined up for further streamlining, clarification and consistency - all under the agenda of reforms to make development easier for visionaries ranging from job-creating companies to modest home improvers without screwing up the environment.
The legislation has now lost the key support of both the Maori Party and UnitedFuture, which have both joined the Opposition parties insisting that it steps too far back from the imperatives of environmental guardianship.
This is absolutely a case of figuring out how far's too far. The Government faces the political reality that it's not going to be able to smooth the path quite as much as it wished on behalf of property owners wanting to use their own land.
Much as the section of the act setting out its overarching purpose and intent was to be untouched itself, opponents believe the damage was done elsewhere. And yes, perhaps in hindsight, it was too hard a sell arguing that removing emphasis on the "maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment" was not, really a big deal.
Reforms are still needed, that's understood.
It's a maddening piece of legislation for many a developer. The real question is the extent to which it's more maddening than it should be.
A Statistics New Zealand survey has found $800 million worth of projects stalled over two years, their applicants simply fed up beyond all sufferance. Environment Minister Amy Adams cites specific anomalies like a $3500 consent being needed to do an $800 job to remove a chimney. And heritage protections being applied to a 14-year-old Lockwood home.
The portrayal is of legitimate aspirations stalling wherever you look - provided you don't look at most recent Ministry for the Environment performance survey that shows of more than 36,000 resource consent applications for 2010-11 just 0.56 per cent (203) were declined, just 4 per cent needed publicly notified applications, just 1 per cent of decisions were appealed, and 95 per cent of consents were processed on time.
Yet the Government is also looking hard at the likes of the Kiwis Count surveys, in which the RMA is consistently the worst-performing of all public services measured.
So, then, time to rebalance a rebalancing exercise.
Both the Maori Party and UnitedFuture are taking the line that there is room for improvements to the act. It will just have to be more measured and less expansive than the Government had in mind. Not, necessarily, an unreasonable thing.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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