RMA ‘broken’, not fit for purpose for local government

Dave Cull, president of Local Government New Zealand and mayor of Dunedin, says that the Resource Management Act is broken, and is effectively saying that the  is not fit for purpose, or at least not fit for local governments who want to progress housing developments.

Stuff: Don’t leave smaller councils with the claw hammer

On one hand we have the Urban Development Authority (UDA), the agency that will be responsible for delivering on the Government’s ambitious KiwiBuild programme.

To build at scale, the Government is looking to give the UDA the power of compulsory acquisition to assemble large parcels of land and the ability to shortcut the onerous public consultation processes required under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

On the other hand we have non-UDA projects, which still have to go through the RMA process.

This will give Government favoured projects a major time and cost advantage.

Make no mistake, the UDA is a good thing. The answer to the housing crisis is to remove the hurdles that have prevented us from building homes.  Local Government NZ has worked closely with Government on the UDA policy to ensure it works with local government structures as seamlessly as possible.

But there is a risk that, if we stop reforms with the UDA, we could be entrenching the housing problem, not fixing it.

Here’s why: by seeking a series of RMA carve-outs for the UDA, the Government is effectively admitting that our planning system is broken, particularly when it comes to urban development.

It is an acknowledgment that the RMA is too consultative and encourages a tragedy of the anti-commons. This is where everyone gets a say in a development, not just affected parties, and as a result many worthwhile projects never get off the ground.

The RMA’s consultation requirements also vastly complicate the already fiendishly difficult matter of assembling land for urban development.

Ironically Cull’s Dunedin City Council has just notified decisions on it’s Second Generation Plan (2GP) for Dunedin, and appeals have been lodged against some decisions.

One highlights the power of everyone being able to have a say. This appeal – ENV-2018-CHC-285 – The Preservation Coalition Trust  – wants Rural Residential rezoning deleted from the 2GP if ‘any portion visible’ from most prominent roads on the Peninisula, West Harbour, North East Valley and north to Waitati. That effectively means just about all land north and east of Dunedin.

Unfortunately, early signs suggest the zeal for building reform seems to be limited to the UDA, which will focus on a handful of really big projects, the kind that only the likes of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton or Tauranga could reasonably take on.

The rest of New Zealand will have to struggle on with the RMA – a claw hammer with a cracked handle and wobbly head.

Including Cull’s Dunedin City.

If we want to tackle housing affordability across the whole country, and not just in our big cities, we need to reform our national planning legislation to enable more residential building to take place, whether it be in Gisborne or Gore.

In short, we want to see everyone equipped with gas framing nailers.  That’s the kind of exciting contest that we want  – an even playing field that results in more houses, where we all end up winning.

He could start by addressing this in his home town, but it’s probably far too late with the advanced 2GP process.

Does he want to put that aside and start again? Or is he only advocating for elsewhere?

 

 

Local bodies vote to herd cats

A double dose from Dunedin at the Local Government New Zealand conference – Dunedin mayor Dave Cull has been elected as the new LGNZ president (a pity it’s not a full time position), and a Dunedin remit was voted for by a bare 51% to bring in cat controls.

National legislation to manage cats

The third remit was proposed by Dunedin City Council and asks that LGNZ lobby the Government on the importance of implementing the final version of the National Cat Management strategy which recognises both the importance of companion cats and indigenous wildlife to many New Zealanders.

Throughout New Zealand councils are tasked with trying to promote responsible cat ownership and reduce their environmental impact on wildlife, including native birds and geckos.  Yet, territorial authority’s powers for cats are for minimising the impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and regional councils’ powers are restricted to destruction of feral cats as pests.  The remit seeks the protection of our wildlife and native species by seeking regulatory powers for cat control, including cat identification, cat de-sexing and responsible cat ownership.

The remit was passed with 51 per cent voting in favour. 

This won’t be popular with cats nor with many cat owners, who may be required to get their moggies to abide by a curfew, not being out at night.

Newly minted president of LGNZ Dunedin Mayor David Cull said it’s about allowing councils to start a conversation about controlling cats if they are affecting wildlife.

“The situation at the moment is while councils have the power to control dogs they have absolutely no way to control cats unless they affect human health,” he told The AM Show.

The remit “specifically acknowledged the value of companion cats to people, so it’s not about trying to stop people owning cats in particular areas,” he said.

“But we do need some controls, because feral cats and in some cases domesticated cats are a major threat to native wildlife.”

“We need some tools, and that’s what we’re asking for,” he said.

There may be issues with cats but they also serve a useful purpose in controlling pests.

The cat population doubled to two at my place last year, and we have more tui and bellbirds around than ever, as well as visits by kereru and eastern rosellas and fantails and waxeyes.

The cats occasionally catch a bird but most often it is a sparrow or a thrush.

But it looks like the Dunedin council and some others are keen on requiring the herding of cats.

They kept as quiet as they could on cats during the local body elections, and now mid term they try to foist it on the public. Devious.