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Enforcement versus permission-giving - Control versus Initiative

By Malcolm Campbell.

It has been proven that the RMA (Resource Management Act) is anything but an enabling act. It is enabling in one sense - it has seen a massive growth in the number of Local Government employees planning your future.

The system is not very palatable as in fact, while the property owner is paying the rates and very likely the mortgage, if there is a mortgage, the paper owner has totally lost control of his or her property. In urban areas, if the ‘owner’ wishes to move some earth on the section, or add another room to the home, the first stop - port of call is the local government office. Out in the rural areas, the situation is exactly the same, no new farm bridges, culverts or drains without permission and control from the local government all at the owners expense.

In the proposed plan documents released for discussion and later, for submissions, by the Waikato Regional Council, there are two oft repeated phrases - ‘Loss and degradation of wetlands’ and ‘Enforcement Action may be taken’. Therefore, get a Resource Consent or else! The prosecutions have followed as the Regional Council have collected over a million dollars in fines which go into the Council’s coffers. Farmers are bearing the brunt of this ‘enforcement’ with fines of sixty or seventy thousand dollars up to any figure over one hundred thousand dollars. How taking money off people in fines helps to finance improvements of offending systems is something of a mystery.

Privately, the public are taking their own action in the face of the Local Government attitude. Particularly on smaller properties, some farmers are quietly closing their dairy operations and seeking alternative grazing options to avoid ever increasing compliance costs. Fonterra have already voiced concern about falling dairy cattle numbers and the falling milk supply. Some of these smaller farms were very efficient producers with low labour input, but have decided to quit.

Back to the RMA. Remember ‘promote sustainable development’ and ‘safeguard the life supporting capacity of air, soil, and water’ a total failure. A recent report in the last week or so, paints a grim outlook for the Hauraki Gulf - many sea life creatures are decreasing in numbers, such as crayfish, scallops and even sea birds. Now what about sustainable development? Being familiar with Te Aroha the town is a prime example and I choose a town outside the physical reach of The Informer. On any typical week day, the number of empty shops very likely outnumbers the people on the pavement. How could this happen to a once buoyant town? Far from developing, the economy is shrinking.

Again in Te Aroha, at the time of the release of the District Plan, the Council was asked why no land was zoned ‘industrial’? The response was that the future of Te Aroha lay in ‘Tourism’. Well, well, in fact between 2000 and 2005 four projects were mooted all orientated to ‘tourism” and not one got off the ground. Why would you chance your arm on a lottery ticket (Resource Consent) costing $100,000 or more with a good chance of missing out.

Caption: Malcolm Campbell and his plane.


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