National’s Resource Management Act policy, released this week, is more than just a missed opportunity to help a parlous economic outlook, says Libertarianz environment spokesman Peter Cresswell: it almost amounts to a confidence trick.
While the world economy reels on the back of central-bank bungling and serious problems in the American housing sector, and as local building activity takes a nose-dive – building consent numbers are down by a third – a political party truly ‘ambitious’ for New Zealand might have grasped the opportunity to help an ailing economy and a struggling housing sector by releasing a bold new Resource Management Act policy that would take the weight of the RMA from the shoulders of struggling builders, home-buyers and property-owners.
"But that is not what National’s Nick Smith has served up," says Cresswell. "Smith’s policy overflows instead with buzzwords like ‘fix’, ‘streamline’, and ‘get business moving’, but closer scrutiny demonstrates Smith’s large print giveth, but his small print taketh away."
The RMA, introduced by National seventeen years ago, locks up land around the country’s major cities, pushing up the price of new housing for new home-buyers. There is nothing here to fix that. It removes from property-owners rights over their own land, including the common law right of recourse over pollution by neighbours or downstream polluters. There is nothing from Smith to alter that. It gives large polluters a ‘license to pollute’, and the lengthy delays and seemingly arbitrary basis on which consents are granted makes it virtually impossible for producers to plan ahead, adding huge costs to every new project – costs which will still have to be passed on despite the decreasing ability of an ailing economy to pay for them. "There is nothing here to alter that," says Cresswell, "except two new bureaucracies and a lot of buzzword bullshit."
There is nothing from National’s new policy to put protection of New Zealanders’ property rights at the heart of the Act. In addition, there is:
- Nothing to take power over your property away from planners and council bureaucrats …
- nothing that will make it easier for a builder to get a subdivision consent and lower the price of land to buyers …
- or for a supermarket owner to build a new supermarket in the face of a competitor …
- or a developer to build a new village in the face of council opposition.
- Nothing to abolish the huge development levies that add thousands, and sometimes millions, to every private project in the country …
- nothing to increase the supply of suitable land available on which to build houses …
- nothing to remove from council planners the power to zone private land, and the power to set urban walls around New Zealand towns and cities.
In fact, there is nothing at all here, not when you scrutinise the fine print.
What it will do however is remove the major legislative impediment to ‘Thinking Big’ – requiring that projects Smith and his colleagues deem to be of ‘national significance’ be consented in nine months, or else. "That won’t help you or I get our projects built or our property rights protected, but it would allow a National government to steamroll over people’s property rights to push through projects like the Waikato pylons.
Which all makes one thing very clear: They don’t want to protect your property rights – they want to promote their ability to steamroller over them. They don’t want to make it easier for you to build – they only want to make it easier for them to build, using borrowed money.
"Taken together then," concludes Cresswell, "Smith’s proposals are a mixture of irrelevant, meaningless, hopeless and more damaging – much like himself really. Nothing will be fundamentally altered. Nothing will fundamentally change."
Where we needed a stake driven through the heart of the RMA we got instead a fork-tongued performance that leaves planners, politicians and bureaucrats in the box seat, and producers and property-owners out in the cold," he concludes. "And those are chill economic winds a-blowin’."
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