Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"The building is the easy part" - three stories of red tape and resource consents

Three stories here of red tape, resource consents, lawyers, consultants and blood-sucking:
1. The Whangamata Marina Society: they first met fourteen years ago to nut out the project. They got DoC permission for their marina plans eight years ago, Environment Court approval three years ago, a ministerial veto a few months ago and a High Court veto of that veto two days ago.

The marina is already a million dollar, fourteen-year-old project, and not a sod has been turned (not of dirt anyway) -- and the latest veto only means that the ministerial veto needs to be reconsidered.

2. Here's the story of another million-dollar project: Wellington's 'Wharf Hilton' has finally got resource consent. Two years to build. Thirteen years to get consent. George Middleditch, the developer died a few months ago waiting for this - and it's still not a full green light: the consent decision is "subject to a fifteen-day appeal period," and the project's opponents have already signalled they're appealing.

3. I watched a film recently at the Auckland Architecture Film Festival in which a London architect explained to a Swiss banker that he wouldn't be moving in to his new building quite as soon as he thought he might. "In London," explained the architect patiently, "the building is the easy part." The cinema audience roared with laughter. In New Zealand now too, as everyone in that audience knew, the building is the easy part. I don't say that like it's a good thing.
Thank the property-rights-destroying RMA and its two chief architects Geoffrey Palmer and Simon Upton that things in New Zealand have come to this. As I've said before, it's time to drive a stake through the heart of this monster, and stop it sucking the lifeblood out of innovation and enterprise.

UPDATE: As I expected, blogger Well Urban has an analysis of the Wharf Hilton project, the resource consent decision, and a round-up of the reaction, giving you an idea of the sort of stuff that's considered in these consent hearings (and how much our buildings today are designed by committee), only for the application to then go on to another, higher, more expensive court when or if an objector appeals. No wonder building costs are rising.

LINKS: Court limits Government RMA action - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Wharf Hilton gets go-ahead in Wellington - Stuff
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Free Radical (PDF)

RELATED: Politics-NZ, RMA, Building

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6 Comments:

Blogger P-Style said...

It would seem that your displeasure of the RMA has more to do with the fact that successive governments have bastardised the Act well byond it's original text. In fact the RMA is one of the most ammneded pieces of legislation we have. The original RMA was about as close as we could come to an efficiently working document (considering the TCP Act from whence it was borne). I don't think the orignal 'architects' of the Act should be held accountable for the monster it has become.

Also, perhaps the fact that the Hilton has taken so long to get consent is evidence thta the RMA is working? The project finally gets approved, but along the way the effects on the environment are mitigated or avoided? I think you have been a little too quick to jump on the band wagon with this one.

9/20/2006 02:46:00 pm  
Blogger P-Style said...

Some more thoughts,

I've been party to many large project consents being processed withn a very expedient period of time. A well prepared application, and a good consultation strategy can do wonders when dealing with the RMA. It doesn't have to be a dog if you know how to use it.

- ctgkxtsj

9/20/2006 02:50:00 pm  
Blogger PC said...

P-Style said: "It would seem that your displeasure of the RMA has more to do with the fact that successive governments have bastardised the Act well beyond it's original text."

On the contrary, P, my problem is with the original text. I have no idea where or how you could have formed the view you describe.

My problem with the RMA is that in all its 456 pages the bloody thing never mentions property rights once!

My problem with it is that at the heart of the Act, instead of property rights, is politically correct non-concepts such as "kaitiakitanga," "sustainable management" and "intrinsic values," - all of which are meaningless rubbish" -- that remove property rights from property owners and deliver power to bureaucrats and consultants (have a look at that last section in that PDF to which I link for more on this).

My problem with it is that property-owners have had their land nationalised under them by this Act.

Far from being "too quick" to criticise, I've been saying this since I returned to New Zealand in 1995.

"I've been party to many large project consents being processed within a very expedient period of time. A well prepared application, and a good consultation strategy can do wonders when dealing with the RMA. It doesn't have to be a dog if you know how to use it."

The chief problem is not that the RMA makes some consents slow to get, or that it funds a gravy train for consultants, or that consents are expensive, or that many large infrastructure projects have been knocked on the head by the consent process, or that all these problems have seen local and foreign investors withdraw their money from infrastructure projects -- all of which are serious problems. These are all symptoms of the primary cause: the destruction of property rights, both in law and in the culture.

I would wager for example that you'd have a problem, P, with even explaining the rudiments of property rights. How 'bout it? Care to give that a go?

9/20/2006 03:19:00 pm  
Blogger P-Style said...

PC,

Far from wishing discourse on the subject of property rights (an area beyond my limited expertise), I'd be very interested to hear your perspective on that issue in more detail.

I'm not here to be contrary for the sake of it. I am here to discuss related issues.

BTW: I am employed to try and get infrastructure projects built, and yet, I personally find the RMA to be a major hindrance at times, even when the delay of projects can potentially be a health risk. However, the RMA is the only piece of legislation I am aware of that goes a ways towards addressing the issues of cross boundary effects prior to a project being undertaken(however I’d happily be corrected if other legislation or common law which goes beyond 'nuisance issues' exists)

BTW: Something I stumbled across:

We can now see why the RMA is said to be about “effects”, rather than “outcomes”. Effects are the consequences on other’s property rights. Once they have been settled, the applicant may make market judgements for any use consistent with the consents. Because usually the applicant has in mind a particular outcome - say a supermarket - it appears the consent process is approving a supermarket, but in principle the application applies to any project which does not exceed the effects. The RMA is not so much about determining the use of a resource or resources, as ensuring the use does not infringe the property rights that others have in the resource.

[I also note the following point from the same article – P-Style]:

One thing the RMA does not do well is to enforce the property rights. This is the unresolved issue of the monitoring of consents.

- Planning Quarterly June 1998, p.5-8, A revised version of a keynote address to the 1998 NZPI Annual Conference, Dunedin.

-ecjtk

9/20/2006 04:07:00 pm  
Blogger P-Style said...

PC said: "My problem with it is that property-owners have had their land nationalised under them by this Act.

Far from being "too quick" to criticise, I've been saying this since I returned to New Zealand in 1995."

I'm sure you must be aware that "nationalisation" (compulsory aquisition - and designation) of property existing long before the RMA.

Perhaps you could elaborate on which natinoalisation projects cause you to criticise the Act and why. I would expect these to be pre-1995 considering that you say "I've been saying this since I returned to New Zealand in 1995" and this implies that you have greivances prior to 1995.

- yxxhegq

9/21/2006 09:54:00 am  
Blogger Tom said...

PC said: "My problem with it is that property-owners have had their land nationalised under them by this Act."

Actually, one of the reasons that there has been such an outcry against the Hilton is that it's privatising public land. The delay has not just been about the resource consent process, but the fact that it's part of a major public development and a lot of people have a justifiable right to be involved.

Unlike the objectore, I think that a hotel is a very good use for the site, and that commerce has a vital part to play in enlivening public space. However, I wouldn't support the Hilton if they hadn't addresses the issues raised in the consents process. Even if it had been on privately-owned land, any building in the city has an effect upon the public realm, and the rights of the people using the streets and squares of the city have to be considered as well as "private" property rights.

11/10/2006 11:17:00 am  

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