The Objection Industry
The benighted Resource Management Act (“RMA”) was sold to the electorate as a way to achieve economic growth in a manner consistent with responsible resource management. It has proved to be nothing of the kind. As so many legislative overreaches demonstrate, the RMA does the exact opposite to its stated intent. It has been used to stop development in its tracks while a very expensive, litigious court process inches forward, adding costs by the day.
At root, the RMA undermines property rights. What is mine is no longer mine; it is owned substantially not by the legal owner, but the “community”. Others now have a property right that warrants them (via the courts) deciding when and how one’s property may be deployed, exploited, and used.
Duncan Garner, writing in Stuff, excoriates the RMA, writing up just one case. It involves an RMA-meddling local council. The council is unnamed. That’s deliberately done (see below). One presumes the reporting is accurate.
March 21, 2015
This is a tale of a breath-taking rip-off. It’s about a decent hard-working guy merely trying to build a house.
He is being gouged financially as part of the planning and consent process. It’s no wonder we have a nationwide housing shortage when these sorts of disgraces are taking place. It’s the story of how some little lizards potentially risk derailing a building project.
I can’t say where this is happening for fear of reprisals to the landowner and the builders overseeing the project. They are too scared to go public and have asked me to tell the story. I have seen all the council paperwork – it’s astonishing. This is a tale of a total abuse of the Resource Management Act and local council planning rules. No wonder there’s a shortage of housing stock.
What Garner details below simply does not exist, according to Greenists, Leftists, and a good deal of those warming the government benches. In this case, the RMA is being used by the local council as a revenue raising opportunity. It is an illicit tax, disguised as an administrative obligation.
This house construction was supposed to have started months ago at a site that needed some native bush and vegetation cleared. An arborist was called in and prepared a report. But the local council then elevated it and demanded a whole new plan including an “ecological assessment of any likely/potential adverse effects caused by the clearance”. Officials also wanted a restoration plan outlining what “supplementary planting” and “weed management” would take place.
But then came the gratuitous bombshell. The council said this must include “subcontracting a lizard specialist to assess whether a lizard management plan would also be needed”. Sorry? A what?
Officials needed to know whether lizards or native geckos exist at the property . . . and whether their lives are in danger. The work for this new plan would be $3000 plus GST. The cost of the lizard survey was extra – and estimated to be about $1600. That included a site visit, three days of trapping, accommodation costs of $240 and paying mileage for a 200km-plus return trip (totalling about $300).
The 10 traps and torches used to hunt for lizards were provided “free of charge” in the quote. How bloody generous. Remember this bloke is just trying to get a resource consent to build his home. Apparently some bloke turned up for lizard patrol one night with a torch, barely knowing what he was looking for – and found nothing. So far they’ve found one lizard in total – 500 metres away from the building site!
Then comes the intrusion of Maori into the benighted process. They also have to consent to the proposed development under New Zealand’s farcical private property laws. In other words, Maori, according to our racist laws, have a “stakeholding” in all New Zealand land. If the owner does not succumb to their requirements and demands, the only recourse is to the courts. Then the judiciary gets to decide just how much of your property you really own.
A lot of this stuff is a modern form of dane-gelding. Some racketeering Maori are saying, in effect, give us some money, pay us some fees and your problems will go away. For them it is risk free. There are no consequences for engaging in such stand over tactics. It is just another instance of the age-old protection racket instituted by the Vikings, and perfected by the Mafia.
And then it got even more farcical. Under local planning rules and the Resource Management Act he must consult with local iwi groups. They must be notified of his plan to cut down some of the native bush. All six interested iwi groups have to be contacted. Some of these iwi groups live hundreds of kilometres away from the building site, but have historical connections to the area.
Three of these groups have so far asked for initial site visits. These don’t come cheap either. One of the iwi is charging $240 an hour, plus travel costs (and excluding GST). This iwi goes on to say should a proper cultural impact assessment be needed they will provide the details of the costs involved. Another iwi group say they see the trees as “taonga in need of protection from climate change, disease and ongoing development and they generally oppose the removal or felling of native trees”. They also want an initial site visit to assess whether a wider cultural assessment is needed – but the kaitiaki (guardian) can’t do it till April.
Administrative law–such as the RMA–is the biggest threat to liberty in our democracy. People are granted rights, powers, and privileges of ownership over others’ property via administrative law. But, those granted such rights have no risks, few thresholds, and no consequences. All the financial incentives and rewards lie with the objectors and the intruders.
I’m sorry, this is a sick joke. It’s a rort and hard-working people are being ripped off. Yes, we need planning rules and a consent process. But the RMA has created a cottage industry of outrageous ripoffs in the name of cultural political correctness.
This particular consent has been held up for months because iwi groups are gaming the system. Councils are clearly misinterpreting the law and too many groups have too much power over private property. This is an abuse of the system. It may be legal but it’s not right.
Government ministers need to read this and do something about it. These sorts of antics are holding development back. It’s just putting money into the pockets of the self-appointed and self- important. Surely this is not how anyone envisaged our planning laws working.