Labour slow to restore Canterbury democracy

After slamming the last Government’s sacking of the Canterbury regional council ECan, and of promising to quickly restore democracy, Labour is now in no hurry to act.

Christchurch Labour MP Megan Woods in 2016: ECan legislation an affront to democracy

The Government’s ECan Legislation is an affront to Cantabrians and continues to deny them a democratically elected regional council, says Labour’s Canterbury Spokesperson Megan Woods.

“There is simply no logical, rational or compelling case for a system of regional government in Canterbury that is anti-democratic and radically different from other parts of the country.

“This is not the return to democracy we were promised. This is a continuation of government control.

“It has been six years since the Government sacked the regional council. It is time to put regional governance back where it belongs. That regional governnment has to be in the hands of Cantabrians. There is no justification for controlling Canterbury through appointments made in Wellington.

“I have a Private Members Bill in the ballot to return to a fully elected council at this year’s elections. That Bill stays in the ballot because Labour backs Cantabrians to run their own region,” says Megan Woods.

Labour’s policy on Canterbury (August 2017): Unlocking Potential – Labour’s Plan for Canterbury

Our plan has eight crucial components, each demonstrating Labour’s commitment to get the region moving – and thriving.

Labour will:

  • Restore full democracy to Environment Canterbury

Stuff (November 2017): ECan elections unlikely before 2019

A return to democracy at Environment Canterbury (ECan) appears unlikely before 2019, despite Labour’s long-standing objection to the status quo.

The last Government removed democratically-elected councillors in 2009 and replaced them with seven commissioners the following year.

One of the sacked councillors, Eugenie Sage, is now Minister of Conservation.

Despite promises by former Environment Minister Nick Smith to restore democracy in 2013, it was pushed to 2016. A full return to democracy was delayed again until 2019 – half the current council is elected and half appointed.

During the election campaign, Labour said full elections would be restored “as soon as possible,” but it is understood that is unlikely to happen before 2019, when elections were expected anyway.

Newsroom (today): Labour’s big miss in Canterbury

The Labour-led Government has failed a crucial test in Canterbury.

Despite making an election issue out of a return to full democracy at Canterbury’s regional council, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has confirmed to Newsroom it will follow the last Government’s timetable of waiting until next year’s scheduled local body elections.

That’s little payback for a surge of support for Labour in Christchurch at last year’s election. The decision not to call early elections will disappoint many – including Mahuta’s ministerial colleague Eugenie Sage, who was one of 14 councillors sacked by the National-led Government in 2010, mainly over claims it was mismanaging water.

Labour’s go-slow on Canterbury democracy even leaves it open to a swipe from ex-Environment Minister Nick Smith, who made the National-led Government’s decision, jointly with then Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, to sack councillors at Environment Canterbury (ECan).

Smith, a fading flower in National, says Labour “screamed from the rooftops” in opposition and if it believed the strength of its rhetoric it would have moved to restore a fully elected council. “I think they know, as I did, that a sensible transition through this term of council and full elections in 2019 is actually the right thing for Canterbury.”

After this length of time without an elected regional council it makes sense to restore a democratic body during the Local Body elections next year, but Labour have failed to fulfil their promise. At least they haven’t set up an inquiry on this.

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary uncertainty

The previous National Government proposed a massive ocean sanctuary in the Kermadec area to the north of New Zealand.

This hit problems largely due to a lack of decent consultation with Maori interests.

The Green Party was caught between it’s enthusiasm for the Kermadec sanctuary – they had been pushing for one – and proper process on Maori issues.

National’s Nick Smith has raised the Kermadec issue again from Opposition – Smith denies his Kermadec bill a coalition wedge:

The National party has put forward its own legislation to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary, a move which could drive a wedge between parties in the coalition government.

Nelson MP Nick Smith has lodged a member’s bill to ban all mining and fishing over 620,000km/sq around the Kermadec Islands.

The Greens have previously proposed such a sanctuary, but New Zealand First opposes it and any plans have been put on hold until a solution can be found.

Dr Smith said he rejected suggestions he was stirring trouble.

“It’s gotta be bigger than simply party political gains.

“We gave it our best shot in government. To get there you need perseverance, you need to keep trying. This is National continuing to want to do the right thing for improving protection of New Zealand’s ocean area.”

A follow up from RNZ: Green Party ‘yet to consider’ Kermadec bill

The Green Party has cast doubt on suggestions it can be relied on to support National’s bill to create the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

Dr Smith said he was confident the proposed law would have the support to pass, with National’s 56 votes and the Green Party’s eight.

“The Greens have indicated to me their support for any bill that would put the sanctuary in place,” he said.

But a Green Party spokesperson said its MPs had yet to consider how they would vote on Dr Smith’s bill.

The spokesperson said the party’s priority was for the government to progress the scheme, as noted in its confidence and supply deal with Labour.

That agreement included a commitment to “use best endeavours and work alongside Māori” to establish the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

That could prove difficult though.

New Zealand First has previously objected to the plan, saying it curtailed Māori fishing rights.

And the government has put any legislation on hold until a resolution can be found that is satisfactory to all parties.

The chances of the Member’s Bill being drawn from the ballot are normally slim. There are usually three drawn out of around sixty bills.

But it could be different this term with National dominating Opposition. If they limit the number of bills submitted they will increase the odds of preferred bills being drawn.

Rose Renton admits smearing poison on Nick Smith

One of the people who attacked Nick Smith with rat poison has admitted doing it, but denies touching his face.

Rose Renton, alsol known as a medical cannabis campaigner, and her husband were the two who accosted Smith, who lodged a complaint with the Police.

Stuff:  Nelson protester Rose Renton explains why she rubbed rat poison on Nick Smith

A protester who rubbed rat poison on Nelson MP Nick Smith’s clothes says she was making a “symbolic statement” against the Brook Valley poison drop.

Rose Renton confronted the Environment Minister near the Nelson Market on Saturday but denies shoving him or touching his face.

Renton lives in the Brook Valley, but says she is not part of the Brook Valley Community Group, which has opposed the drop. She said she only wanted to make “a stand against the environment Mr Smith has poisoned”.

“He is the Minister of our Environment, he did not attend The Brook poisoning unlike half our police force so my husband and I went to him,” Renton said.

“It was a symbolic gesture of his support of the poison drop without the required 48 hours notice to surrounding community.”

According to Smith the incident “became quite frightening when it escalated from verbal abuse and throwing rat poison at myself and volunteers to physical shoving and rubbing rat poison over my face and clothes”.

“It was a complete violation of the wildlife and people living in the Valley. I wanted Mr Smith to see exactly what it feels like to have poison in your backyard.

“He didn’t enjoy it, he felt violated?  Well so do the people in the Brook.”

The Brook Waimarama Sanctuary want to create a predator free area for native wildlife in the Brook Valley near Nelson, along similar lines to Zealandia in Wellington.

It says the poison drop was a necessary step in creating a predator-free zone behind the fence.

RNZ:

Renton says she doesn’t regret what she did, and says there was no risk to Smith.

Whether there was any actual risk or not physically accosting MPs in protest over anything is crossing a line, and she should be held to account under law.

 

 

Poisonous protests in Nelson

Poisonous politics seems to be a thing in Nelson.

Yesterday on Stuff: Three arrests as Brook Sanctuary poison drop in Nelson turns nasty

A controversial poison drop in Nelson has turned nasty, with three arrests and a helicopter’s fuel supply sabotaged.

Sabotaging a helicopter is very nasty, and potentially (human) life threatening.

Two helicopters and 75 people are involved in the first of three planned drops at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, near Nelson. They are spreading bait laced with brodifacoum, a common rodent poison that is toxic to humans and animals. The operation aims to eradicate all rodents from within a 14-kilometre pest-proof fence that was completed last year at the 691-hectare sanctuary, to allow for the reintroduction of native wildlife.

Wildlife sanctuaries tend to be quite popular and are viewed positively, as is eradicating introduced pests.

Today from Stuff: Pair rub poison in face of Nelson MP Nick Smith, threaten family

Nelson MP and Environment Minister Nick Smith says he has laid a complaint with police after rat poison was rubbed in his face and his family was threatened.

Smith said he was not harmed by the incident, which happened about 11am on Saturday at the Nelson Market.

“It was blue rat poison,” he said. “I went and had a shower afterwards.”

The incident came as the first of three planned drops of bait laced with brodifacoum got under way at the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, near Nelson.

Smith said a man and a woman protesting over the operation threw poison at him.

“The situation became quite frightening when it escalated from verbal abuse and throwing rat poison at myself and volunteers to physical shoving and rubbing rat poison over my face and clothes,” he said.

It was at that point, police were called and the pair walked away “but continued threats to poison myself and my family”.

“I’m quite tolerant of peaceful protest but this has gone too far and I have lodged a formal complaint with police,” Smith said. “The incident was disappointing because people are generally respectful at the Nelson Market even when they disagree with Government policy or my views.”

“You get a bit of lip; that goes with the turf but this went too far,” he said.

Throwing poison and threatening MPs and their families is extreme protest that warrants severe penalties and deterrence.

Green campaign launch in Nelson

The Green Party is launching their election campaign in Nelson. They recently announced they would be campaigning to win that electorate, a different direction for them as they have solely sought the party vote in recent elections.

Stuff:  Greens pick Nelson for campaign launch

The Green Party is to launch its election campaign in Nelson on Sunday as it attempts to unseat long-time Nelson MP and National Party Minister Nick Smith.

Nelson City councillor Matt Lawrey is the Green’s candidate for Nelson and said the decision to hold the nationwide launch here  provided a “huge boost” to his campaign.

“I think we have a chance of winning,” he said.

I suppose he has to say that but last election:

  • Nick Smith (National) 20,000
  • Maryan Street (Labour) 12,395
  • Colin Robertson (Greens) 3,449

Even if Labour encouraged voters to go green it looks a very long shot for Lawrey.

Lawrey said he believed part of the attraction was that he was running a strong “two-tick campaign” for the seat and the party vote. He is No. 21 on the party list.

“I believe I have got a chance of winning [the seat] because every day, all sorts of people tell me they think it’s time for a change.

“Nick Smith has been an MP in these parts for 27 years; it’s time for a change.”

Greens haven’t been attracted to two-tick campaigning for a decade so it is an interesting change.

The top 20 candidates on the Green Party list including co-leaders Metiria Turei and James Shaw are scheduled to join Lawrey and West Coast-Tasman electorate hopeful Kate Fulton at the launch on Sunday afternoon at the Trafalgar Centre.

The launch is scheduled to be held from 1pm to 3pm.

Possibly not coincidentally the Greens were bequeathed a substantial amount on the condition it be used in the Nelson and West Coast-Tasman electorates.

I am interesting in whether the Greens will actively contest more electorates. Of special interest will be Metiria Turei’s approach in Te Tai Tonga, the southern Maori electorate that she is switching to.

Greens contesting Nelson electorate

The Green Party has had a policy of not contesting electorates. They have stood in electorates but used the contests to campaign for party votes, which of course are the critical vote under MMP.

But they have signalled a switch from that strategy with an announcement they will actively contest the Nelson electorate.

Green Party to run strong campaign to unseat Nick Smith in Nelson

The Green Party is today announcing that its Nelson candidate, second term local councillor Matt Lawrey, will run to win the electorate and unseat Nick Smith in September’s election.

Mr Lawrey and the Green Party will run a strong two-tick campaign in Nelson, and will offer a positive, solutions-based alternative to Dr Smith and National. It is the Green Party’s first run at winning an electorate seat since Jeanette Fitzsimons won Coromandel in 1999.

This is held by National Minister Nick Smith.  The electorate result from 2014:

  • Nick Smith (National) 20,000
  • Maryan Street (Labour) 12.395
  • Colin Robertson (Greens)  3,449
  • John Green (Conservatives) 1,125

Rachel Boyack will stand for Labour this year. She is 47 on the Labour list so looks out of contention unless she  wins the electorate.

Lawrey is 24 on the Green list so also looks unlikely to succeed this year.

So it looks a long shot even if Labour did what they could to help the Greens. This possibility was raised last December:  Labour denies giving Green light for Nelson

The Labour Party has denied suggestions it is standing aside in Nelson, despite media reports that it is engaging in strategic deals with the Greens ahead of next year’s general election.

Media reports yesterday suggested that Labour was talking about standing aside in Nelson to give a Greens candidate a clear run.

However, Labour general secretary Andrew Kirton said despite an agreement between Labour and the Greens to work together to change the Government there was no such plan for Nelson.

“We have a very strong party in Nelson and that won’t change. I’ve been impressed by how our members have remained committed to winning government next year,” he said.

If Labour stick to that then the Green bid looks to be symbolic rather than realistic.

The Greens were bequeathed a large donation that stipulated it had to be used in the Nelson and West Coast electorates, which is likely to have been a factor in the decision. See Greens say big donation a mystery:

The party declared a donation of $283,835 last week from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

Riddoch, from Nelson, was not a party member and did not appear to have any formal connection to the Greens.

Will Greens actively contest other electorates? They must be tempted given Labour’s obvious weakness going into the campaign period.

 

Housing equation = increasing problem

According to Nick Smith about 30,000 houses are being built a year at the moment, up from 13,000 a year when he became Minister of Housing in 2013.

From Stuff: Nick Smith reflects on ‘small reduction in responsibilities’ after cabinet reshuffle

“There’s no question housing was under pressure because our population is growing strongly.

“I’m proud of my record in that when I became minister across the country we were building about 13,000 homes a year, we’re now building about 30,000 homes a year.

“And I’ve had my work cut out in getting the growth in house construction to match the strong population growth.”

According to Stats NZ and my calculations the population is currently increasing by about 145,000 per year:

New Zealand’s population is estimated to increase by one person every 3 minutes and 37 seconds.

According to NZ Population and Stats NZ the approximate population increases since Smith became Minister of Housing are:

  • 2013 – 50k
  • 2014 – 79k
  • 2015 – 92k
  • 2016 – 99k
  • 2017 – 145k

So in 2013 we were building 13k houses for about 50k more people, and now we’re building about 30k houses for a 145k increase.

That equates to 1 house per 3.84 people in 2013.

And Stats NZ say

In 2013, the average household size in New Zealand was 2.7 people per household, the same as in 2006.

That suggests a problem in 2013.

Now it’s 1 house per 4.83 people.

That suggests an increasing problem. Note though that “Stat NZ forecasts are based on recent trends and do not necessarily reflect actual population change”.

But even at last year’s increase of 99K  which at 30k houses is 3.3 people per house.

There’s other factors and possibilities – new households might be much bigger than average – but the housing situation doesn’t look like improving, in fact we are more likely to be slipping further behind.

 

More housing responsibilities for Adams

Nick Smith has been probably the poorest public performer in Government over the last few years. He has had to try to deal with the difficult housing issues in Auckland, but has often done that badly.

Amy Adams has been one of the best performers. She has been gradually taken over housing responsibilities from Smith, who remains as Minister for the Environment and just one housing responsibility, Building and Construction.

In comparison Adams has a long portfolio list:

  • Minister of Justice
  • Minister for Courts
  • Minister for Social Housing
  • Minister Responsible for Housing New Zealand Corporation
  • Minister Responsible for Social Investment
  • Associate Minister of Finance

Two of those are directly involved with housing, but Social Investment and Finance have close relationships with Government housing.

Isaac Davidson at NZH: Adams rises, Smith falls in Cabinet reshuffle

Bill English’s reshuffle marks another rise in the ranks for National’s quiet star Amy Adams.

It is also a demotion for Nick Smith, who has now been distanced from any responsibility for the Government’s house-building programme.

English today denied any suggestion of a demotion for Smith, saying reporters “should not read into it”.

But his appointment of Adams appears to recognise that National is bracing for an election-year fight on housing and that Smith wasn’t fit to lead it.

Adams was already responsible for social housing, emergency housing, and Housing New Zealand. She has now been given control over the National-led Government’s plans to build tens of thousands of homes in the next decade.

There are tentative signs that Smith’s various initiatives to lift supply in Auckland are gaining some traction. And as English keeps repeating, the problem is not money but space – something which Government has limited control over.

But it is clear that Smith had lost the public argument on housing affordability.

Adams is a highly capable, confident minister, and perhaps most importantly a good communicator.

English is now trusting her with a huge workload. On top of her housing roles, she maintains the large justice portfolio, and is also responsible for the newly created social investment agency.

Adams has five months to do what Smith couldn’t and at least give the impression that National has the situation under control.

Housing is going to be one of the big issues this election after house prices have gone mad, especially in Auckland but increasingly elsewhere in the country.

People who already own homes may like the increase in value, but those who don’t will see home ownership as an increasingly difficult goal (if that’s what they want, some people are happy to rent).

Adams has little time to fix housing, but if she doesn’t appear as cranky as Smith she will at least give better appearances of competence.

Controversial RMA reforms passed into law

Yesterday the third reading vote passed the controversial RMA reforms into law but 1 vote.

National have been determined to get the RMA through this term. When David Seymour (ACT) and Peter Dunne (UF) had objections to some parts of the bill National turned to the Maori Party to get it over the line.

But RMA reforms causing tensions over race relations

Tensions over race relations have been to the fore as the Government’s managed to pass its RMA reforms into law thanks to backing from the Maori Party.

ACT leader David Seymour said the reforms won’t do nothing for housing affordability, nor will it do nothing for land supply and the building of new dwellings, but it will be close enough to nothing.

“It will be close enough to nothing that he has wasted two and a half years of his ministerial time and much of this houses time bringing a bill that is two steps backward for each one step forward.”

Labour MP David Parker’s slammed the Government for using the housing crisis to drive its RMA reforms, calling it dishonest.

“Blaming the RMA and planners for the tax biases and the inequality that’s driven home ownership in New Zealand to the lowest level since the 1950s for over 60 years is just wrong.”

I thought it is widely understood  that the housing shortage is in large part due to RMA restrictions on new subdivisions and building. It has become too easy for people to oppose building, and getting resource consent can be time consuming and expensive – and at risk of failing.

Most parties supported RMA reform, including Labour, but didn’t support the full package that National wanted.

New Zealand First’s maintained a vocal opposition to new iwi participation measures in RMA rules with party deputy leader Ron Mark arguing one law for all should apply.

“We are all created equal in God’s eyes and nothing in legislation will ever change that no how many flip flops Mr Nick Smith makes.”

An odd comment from Mark that was smacked down by Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox:

“I find that last contribution quite ironic from the man who was the chief treaty negotiator for Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa.”

National have defended the result of their collusion with the Maori Party by slanging back.

Environment Minister Nick Smith has accused those of opposing the Bill of doing the country a disservice.

“They quibbled at the edges, they tried to manufacture myths, but they’ve been unable to amount any credible argument against the substantive reforms in this bill, in fact they barely mentioned them.”

But, although reform was widely supported, others had serious concerns about some of the quibbly edge bits.

Smith would have to be one of the worst Government negotiators ever.

While the RMA reforms may or may not bother most voters (more likely not) the deal making done by National is likely to be used to slam the Maori Party in the election campaign,

RMA Bill passes 2nd reading

The Government’s contentious Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed it’s second reading in Parliament yesterday thanks to the votes of the two Maori Party MPs.

Newshub: Resource Management Act bill passes second Parliament reading

The Resource Legislation Amendment Bill passed its second reading 61-59 with National and the Māori Party supporting it and all the other parties opposed – including Government allies ACT and United Future.

The bill was held up for months because the Government didn’t have the numbers to pass it, until Environment Minister Nick Smith negotiated a deal with the Māori Party.

At the core of the bill are changes to parts of the RMA which govern environmental and planning decisions. They’re designed to make it easier for land to be developed for housing and the minister will in some circumstances be able to override council decisions.

“The reform is critical to addressing housing supply and affordability by making it easier, faster and less costly to create new sections,” Dr Smith said after the bill had passed its second reading.

“It opens up land supply and reduces the time taken to get consents.”

It’s been widely thought that the RMA needed an overhaul but there have been concerns over retaining environmental safeguards in particular.

Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox says her party’s support at the second reading doesn’t mean it has put aside all its concerns.

But she’s confident “ongoing talks” with Dr Smith will resolve those issues.

Labour MP Meka Whaitiri slammed the Maori party support: Māori Party support RLA bill & lose credibility

The Māori Party have lost all credibility with their support for National’s unpopular Resource Legislation Amendment Bill (RLA) which will undermine local democracy, damage regional economies and do nothing to help Māori in to desperately needed housing, says Labour’s Local Government spokesperson Meka Whaitiri.

“This Bill introduces sweeping new powers to knock out GM rules in local plans and the Māori Party’s support is a blow to our local councils and regional economies.

“Here in Hawke’s Bay and our other GM free growing regions, food exporters are striving to have New Zealand placed as a global seller of high-value goods and our GM-free reputation is crucial to that.

“Attempting to pass off minor concessions over Iwi participation rights as a win just doesn’t cut it.

“As a former chief executive of Ngāti Kahungunu, our third largest iwi, I support council to Iwi partnerships; however there are at least 123 iwi and hapū who already have co-governance arrangements in existence.

“The Māori Party still claim a GE Free stance then vote for this bill.

“To say they’ll win further concessions at the committee stage is a cop-out and misleading.

“They made this deal with National back in November; if they haven’t negotiated the removal of the S360D powers by now, they never will.

“In a housing crisis disproportionately affecting Māori, the Māori Party have voted for a Bill that adds complexity to the Resource Management Act and makes it harder to get things done.

“Labour supports the current ability for councils to back their own local economies and make plan rules regarding GM,” says Meka Whaitiri.

Bill provisions include:

  • National planning standards to reduce complexity and cost
  • Streamlined planning process
  • Discretion for councils to exempt an activity from consents
  • Strengthening of requirements to manage natural hazard risks
  • New requirements for councils to free up land for housing
  • New provisions to enable stock exclusion from waterways
  • More generous compensation for land required for public works
  • Improved Māori participation arrangements