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Proposed Legislation Undermines Property Rights

12 February 2004

Proposed Legislation Undermines Property Rights

Legislation amending the Resource Management Amendment Act in the case of the Waitaki catchment fails to recognise existing property rights and undermines incentives to invest, New Zealand Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr said today, presenting the NZBR's submission on the Resource Management (Waitaki Catchment) Amendment Bill.

"The NZBR supports the government's initiative to review water allocation issues through its nationwide Water Programme of Action. It has been advocating the development of tradable water rights since it published its report Reform of the Water Industry in 1995 ( www.nzbr.org.nz ). Australia is well ahead of New Zealand in efficiently allocating and charging for water. The proposed bill, however, is an ad hoc and backward step for water management. It promotes a central planning approach that is out of line with international best practice.

"The bill's 'blank sheet of paper' approach to existing water consents would result in existing property rights being ignored. The decision making would be politicised and, in all likelihood, take longer than under present arrangements.

"There is certainly a need for major increases in electricity supply - perhaps around 300MW a year - to enable the government's target of 4 percent plus economic growth rate to be met. To this end, reform of the Resource Management Act is a priority. However, such changes should be well considered and across-the-board, rather than rushed and piecemeal. The government's reaction is similar to the ill-conceived National Development Act which was passed to facilitate construction of the Clyde Dam when an earlier government was concerned about electricity supplies.

"For both economic and environmental reasons, the far more desirable approach is to revisit the RMA in a fundamental way and establish a more market-oriented water allocation system," Mr Kerr said.

A copy of the submission is available as a PDF on the NZBR website http://www.nzbr.org.nz/submissions.asp?DocType=Submission

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