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DOC Wants ‘Anti Job’ Rules For Far North

Saturday, 4 August 2001
Federated Farmers Northland (Inc)



The Far North is one of the poorest regions of the country and needs economic development and more jobs.

Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Economic Development Jim Anderton presented his ‘Northland Sustainable Economic Development Strategy’ at Whangarei last Wednesday. The strategy included two million dollars to support new business development in the Region.

But the Department of Conservation has proposed rules for the Far North District Plan which effectively block all labour intensive business development in the rural zones for at least three years. Mr Anderton should be aware of this because Sandra Lee, Minister of Conservation and Associate Minister for the Environment, is also deputy leader of the Alliance Party.

As published, the Far North Proposed District Plan was a model for the sustainable management of rural areas. The Plan was effects based as the RMA intended. In the Rural Industry Zone, landowners could introduce new activities, including new processing plants, with minimum delays and compliance costs, provided the proposal met performance standards relating to noise, traffic generation, stormwater management and so on.

Many projects have been waiting in the wings for the hearings to be completed so that applications would be made under this new RMA based regime, instead of the old activity based lists of the transitional plan. Everything seemed to be heading in the right direction. But these high hopes have now been dashed by the rules proposed by the Department of Conservation.

First the Department has proposed a rule which limits employment on any site in the rural industry zone to no more than eight jobs for every four hectares of site area. This means that if you have only 7.9 hectares of land you cannot provide work on the site for more than eight people. ThatÕs only one wage earner for every two acres of land.

This rule actually presumes that jobs are bad for the environment. It does not matter if it can be shown that nine, or even thirty, people can be employed without damaging the environment in terms of noise, amenity, waste water or traffic or whatever. For some reason DoC believes that jobs themselves are bad for the environment.

Of course this is not what the RMA says and, in fact, jobs are good for the environment. People with a weekly pay packet can afford to look after their environment. Poor people put other things first.
Just to make sure that Council really gets the picture, DoC has also proposed that the Traffic Intensity Factor (a means of estimating traffic generation) be reduced to 30% of CouncilÕs original rating for the Rural Industrial Zone.

This means that no processing plant can be more than 600 sq metres in area, without being notified. And notification is potentially so costly and time consuming that notification is effective prohibition, especially when a potential objector like DoC has such deep pockets to play with. The combined effect of these rules would be to exclude wineries, motels, garden centres, restaurants, rest homes, schools, playing fields and in fact almost everything except existing pastoral farming. DoCÕs clear intention is to freeze the rural economy into its present pattern. Which means the rural sector gradually goes broke.

The Prime Minister has just attended the ‘Catching the Knowledge Wave’ conference, in which almost everyone agreed that we needed to adopt a ‘can-do’ attitude.

Ms Clark should ask Mr Anderton and Ms Lee why the Government should be imposing anti-job rules on one of the poorest regions with some of the highest unemployment in the country.

This is not an argument between the right and the left. Although it does seem as though the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

Of course DoC will argue that the anti-job rule is only a proposal, and that the Council may reject it. However, we have to assume that DoC would then appeal the decision to the Environment Court. The people and communities of the Far North would then have to wait three or four years for a final ruling from the Court.

In the meantime we shall just keep shipping unprocessed logs, carcases and other commodities offshore. And our young people will go begging for jobs.

There is only one solution. DoC must withdraw both these rules and leave the people and communities of the Far North to promote the sustainable management of the Rural Industrial Zone in their own District.

ShouldnÕt DoC be focusing on managing its own property rather than everyone elseÕs? After all, they own the worldÕs biggest possum farm. Surely thatÕs enough to keep them busy.

ENDS (760 words)


Ian Walker
President, Federated Farmers Northland (Inc)
Phone: (09) 408 0072
Fax: (09) 408 0608

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