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Real Resource Management

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Reading through a few of the 3439 submissions to the Auckland Governance Legislation Committee and came across one from the Centre for Resource Mangement Studies (CRMA), dated 21 July. The CRMA brings to the commitee's attention the relevance that changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) has to the restructuring of the proposed new Auckland Super City. The RMA is a law in New Zealand with the stated purpose of "promoting the sustainable management of natural and physical resources." You can read the CRMA's submission here, but below are a few excerpts which just scream out freedom and progress.

Last week the Rodney District Council declined an application by a Maori-based joint venture to develop a luxury resort on Te Arai Beach, near Mangawhai.

This was celebrated by many as a ‘victory for the community,’ although we can presume that this ‘community’ does not include many of the unemployed tradesmen in the area, or the young people who might have found employment in the 180 chalet complex.

Some months ago another proposal for a luxury resort on the Te Arai point was ended when the ARC bought the property, for a Regional Park, from the project financier – leaving the developer, and the resort operator I was negotiating with, high and dry.

A third resort project, also in Mangawhai, is teetering on a knife-edge, dependent on whether the Kaipara District Council will process the application to expand the facilities to meet the needs of the US operator as a non-notified application. It has taken two years to get the present proposal through the system. If the additions are notified the investors may have to wait a further two years – and they simply will not do so.

So one small town on the East Coast of Northland faces the prospect of three resorts being abandoned because of the RMA process – even though all these resorts were intended to be ready in time for the Rugby World Cup...

...Any RMA decision-maker is required to finally assess any application against Part 2 of the Act, and, given the present wording of the Act, the ecosystems or natural character, will almost always trump economic development and job creation.

Luxury resorts are naturally built in locations of great beauty and natural character. That means they cannot get built in New Zealand because the protection of that natural beauty and character almost always trumps economic development and employment. The current wording of the Act says economic growth and development are not matters of national importance, or indeed of any importance at all. The developer cannot compete with the national importance accorded to the natural and physical resources of the environment...

...We are in a time of crisis and the ordinary people are expecting Government to provide a stimulus to economic development, productivity and employment. But Government cannot fund this activity – it does not have the cash and cannot borrow more. Our credit rating is vulnerable.

The key is to remove these obstacles and mop up the unemployed in privately funded construction projects and the downstream activities they generate.

The Centre believes these extraordinary times legitimise a major re-write of Part 2 of the Act.

The submission follows this introduction with the proposed re-write; I have included a few of these below,

Section 6 (b) The protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development. 

Pedantic legislation on the protection of landscapes can be vague and extremely detrimental to proposed investments in an area. Such legislation often takes the form of opposing windmill farms or deforestation.

Section 6 (g) The efficient use and development of natural and physical resources, and in particular –
(i) the use of market mechanisms to promote their efficient allocation.
(ii) the need to promote this efficient use by reducing transaction costs to a reasonable minimum.
(iii) by councils collecting data bases relating to previous applications so that applicants do not have to provide information already provided by previous applicants.
(iv) The need for communities to have access to locally sourced mineral aggregates for construction purposes.

The Act also states that regard must be given to a number of things including,

  • Any finite characteristics of natural and physical resources,
  • the effects of climate change, and
  • the benefits to be derived from the use and development of renewable energy.

To which the CRMA suggests the Committee read Julian Simon, strike out the reference to climate change and ask what benefits there are from using renewable energy. Love it.

I was interested to note that ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas, ex-Leader of the National Party, Don Brash  and highly-successful businessman and ACT supporter Alan Gibbs are all trustees on the board of the CRMA.

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