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Nat's RMA carve-up is "Think Big in drag"

25 July 2005

Nat's RMA carve-up is "Think Big in drag"

National's proposed carve-up of the Resource Management Act has been described as "Think Big in drag", by Associate Environment Minister David Benson-Pope.

According to Don Brash there is 'too much decision-making' in the hands of local communities and their councils; developers should be able to bypass local community decision-making; and there should be less recognition of those affected by environmental effects in favour of those who produce them.

"The parallels with Think Big are just unavoidable," said David Benson-Pope. "Under National central government would force local communities to accept everything from prisons, to power plants irrespective of whether they are appropriate to the local community."

"This completely undermines the principles of the RMA."

Mr Benson-Pope says National's policy launch at the Western Springs Speedway was significant because it epitomises everything wrong with National's approach.

"Western Springs has been a flashpoint in that community between the competing values of locals, who support events there, and those who cannot cope with the excessive noise levels, including local families with young children.

"The RMA is a process for dealing with such conflicts inherent in balancing competing demands over environmental matters and property rights.

"National's simplistic answer is to say that property owners' rights are supreme and that local communities do not even have a right in setting noise standards.

"This same logic when applied to bigger projects will see the rights of local communities completely steam-rolled in the interest of developers. This is Think Big Don Brash style."

Mr Benson-Pope says Dr Brash has been poorly served by his Environment spokesman Nick Smith. Mr Smith has sat on the Select Committee that has been considering the government's RMA amendment Bill, which will soon become law.

"That Bill already deals with ensuring environmental standards are consistent across the country and ensures improved and quicker decisions on consents. But what it doesn't do is cut local communities out of decisions about projects that affect them. Nor does it favour the side in a conflict who has the largest cheque-book.

"The RMA is about striking the right balance between using our environment and protecting it for future generations. We've had unprecedented growth and employment in New Zealand in recent years. It is just not sustainable for the National Party to say the RMA has hamstrung our economy.

"Nor is it truthful to say New Zealand has had to do without needed infrastructure because of the RMA. At least 20 new power generation plants have been consented under the RMA. The majority of our major power generation plants have also renewed consents in the last decade."

Mr Benson-Pope says a report prepared for the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Transport in 2003 concluded that New Zealand performs well compared with other countries in terms of the time taken for roading projects to commence.

The average time from inception to start of construction for major New Zealand roading projects was two years quicker here than in the United Kingdom, seven years quicker than the United States, and 14 to 24 years quicker than in Queensland.

"So one really needs to ask what it is that is motivating National's decision to rip the RMA apart?" said Mr Benson-Pope. "The National Party's attack on the RMA appears to be about giving a preference to special interests over and above the interests of all New Zealanders."

RMA: some facts

- Our average environmental compliance costs per employee are about $920 a year 15%-20% lower than in Australia.

- The OECD 2001 survey on Businesses' Views on Red Tape ranked New Zealand 1st out of 10 countries for lowest aggregate annual compliance costs as an average per small and medium sized enterprise.

- A 2003 study by the Ministry of Economic Development that looked at the compliance costs associated with doing business in New Zealand showed that factors related to the RMA were generally not perceived as constraints on productivity and growth.

- On a sample of 490 New Zealand businesses, when assessing costs versus benefits, 21% or less of respondents considered that costs related to the RMA outweighed the benefits.

- The Business NZ/KPMG "Compliance Cost Survey" 2003, which asked businesses to list priorities for compliance cost, ranked the RMA with a relatively low priority at 6th place with only 11% of respondents listing the RMA within its top three priorities.

A report prepared for the Ministry of the Enviroment and the Ministry of Transport in 2003 concluded that New Zealand performs well compared with other countries in terms of the time taken for roading projects to commence.

The average time from inception to start of construction for major New Zealand roading projects is 8 years, compared to up to 10 years in the United Kingdom, 15 years in the United States, and 20 to 30 years in Queensland.

The report noted that factors other than the resource consent process contributed significantly to delays for major roading projects. These factors included:
- determining the right solution for transport problem;
- land acquisition; and
- obtaining funding – a point recent government announcements have fixed.

At least 20 new power generation plants had been consented under the RMA. While not all yet built, the necessary approvals have been obtained. These include:
- Thermal:
Otahuhu A, B and C; Southdown; New Plymouth; Stratford; Whirinaki; Te Rapa (co-generation plan)' Ep 3

- Geothermal:
Poihepe; Mokai; Ngawha; Tauhara; Wairakei binary

- Hydro:
Opua; a new tailrace for Manapouri; Opua; Falls Dam; Horseshoe bend

- Windfarms:
Te Apiti; Hau nui; Tararua

- Energy consent renewals:
In addition, the majority of all of the existing energy generation plants have had to renew consents over the last decade. This has included almost all major hydro schemes and examples include Waikato, TPD, Clutha, Wikaremoana, Cobb, Coleridge, Fraser and Teviot, amongst others.

National can't say we have been "anti-development":
- Fewer than 1 per cent of applications are declined; 54,600 resource consent applications were processed in 2003/04 of these fewer than 400 were declined.

- New Zealand has low environmental compliance costs by international standards according to an OECD Report published in 2001.

- Examples of significant recent projects to gain consents include:
The Levin to Nelson Telecom Cable
Project: Submarine fibre-optic cable between Levin and Nelson.

The Huntly Coal Mine expansion
Project: Continuation of coal mining with development of the Awaroa 4 mine.

Kate Valley Lanfill
Project: Landfill to take the waste from six local authorities.

Project PJK – Strtegic Roading Network, Tauranga
Project: 8.5km of two and four lane expressway, including seven bridges, as part of wider programme to improve roading in and around Tauranga.

Pohokura Gas Field
Project: Three offshore well heads, two onshore drilling locations, and associated marine and onshore pipelines.

Between 2000 and this year there had been at least 11 new mill projects or mill expansions in New Zealand worth over $110 million. Over the next four years there has already been publicly announced a further 8 new mills or mill expansion projects worth in excess of $470million.

Publicly announced investment in new mills and mill expansions 2000-2005:

Company name: Description: Amount invested (NZ$m)
Craigpine Upgrades at Tokoroa Mill 2.7
Jenkin Timber Further expansion Henderson Mill 1.3
Renalls New sawmill in the Wairarapa 4.0
Carter Holt Harvey Upgrade Whakatane Mill 4.0
East Coast Lumber Mill expansion in Wairoa 2.0
Juken Nissho Expansion of Kaitaia Mill 50.0
Prime Sawmills Upgrades to Rayonier Mill at Gisborne 1.0
Rosvall Sawmill Sawmill upgrade - Whangarei 5.0
Winston Pulp Int. Sawmill expansion 10.5
Hunter Hills Sawmill New Sawmill 12.0
Flight Timbers Tripling sawmill production 20.0
Total: 112.5

Publicly announced investment in new mills and mill expansions 2006-2009:
Company name: Description: Amount invested (NZ$)
Carter Holt Harvey New sawmill Northland or Tokoroa 150.0
Carter Holt Harvey Modernisation of Tasman Mill, Kawerau 37.0
City Forests Sawmill at Milbank 20.0
Ernslaw One Expansion of Pacific Pine Sawmill 30.0
TDC Sawmills Sawmill expansion 80.0
Weyerhaeuser Expansion of the Kaituna Mill 40.0
City Forests Proposed expansion of Milbank Sawmill 15.0
Hikurangi Forests New sawmill at Gisborne 100.0
Total: 472.0


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