Nick Smith National Party Environment Spokesman
14 November 2005
Farcical appeal puts power and growth at risk
Labour's flawed resource management laws, which allow anyone to object to anything, anywhere, are putting New Zealand's electricity supply and economic growth at risk, says National's Environment spokesman, Nick Smith.
He was commenting on a High Court appeal being considered today in Wellington on the Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation Regional Plan, lodged by a Whangarei man. It was a procedural hearing which considered transferring the case to Christchurch and scheduling a substantial hearing in March next year.
"It is farcical that a person living in Whangarei, more than 1,000 kilometres from the Waitaki River, can delay hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in irrigation and hydro electric development on spurious Treaty grounds," says Dr Smith. "National's criticism of this farce is not directed at the courts nor the individual appellant but at the Labour Government for passing laws that allow this sort of frivolous appeal.
This is the sort of political correctness that National wants to put a stop to. "The costs for New Zealand associated with this appeal are enormous and amount to millions of dollars every week in lost opportunity. These delays may make the difference in future years between thousands of hectares of land being in drought or irrigated, and thousands of houses having power or not.
"National's proposed resource management reforms of removing vague Treaty references and limiting appeals to people who are directly affected would have prevented this sort of nonsense and enabled essential infrastructure to be built in a timely way. "This serious example must surely force Labour to rethink its approach to the Resource Management Act.
"Labour's talk of exports, innovation and growth in the Speech from the Throne are meaningless if key sectors like electricity and agriculture are going to be held back by flawed resource laws," says Dr Smith.
1 The appeal set down for procedural hearing in the Wellington High Court is in the name of Bevan Wilkie, of 1/10 Wolfe Street, Whangarei. He is a retired fisherman of Ngai Tahu decent who claims on the basis of Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi that Ngai Tahu are the owners of the Waitaki River water. Ngai Tahu has not appealed the allocations of the Waitaki Catchment Allocation Board and has distanced itself from the appeal.
2 The Waitaki Catchment Water Allocation plan, if not subject to appeal, would have taken effect 15 days after it was approved i.e. 24 October 2005. While there is another joint appeal in the name of McKenzie Irrigation Company and Meridian Energy against Rule 6 in the McKenzie, this only affects a narrow set of issues and does not prevent the rest of the plan being operative.
3 There are over 100 resource consents, some lodged over four years ago, that are held back from being able to be processed by this appeal. The Minister for the Environment called in applications in October 2003 and introduced special legislation to override the normal consent process.
A typical water right applicant will have lodged and made submissions on an original application, had it called in by the Minister, made submissions on the special Waitaki Bill, made submissions on the Waitaki Plan (now subject to appeal), will then make new submissions for their water right under the plan when it is finally approved, which may also be appealed. This amounts to a seven-stage decision making process which has already taken four years and is likely to take another two years. This is bureaucracy gone mad.
4 The Waitaki Development Board has put a value of the irrigation allocation from the Waitaki Plan at $130 million per year on-farm and $470 million off-farm, totally $600 million per year. Every week of delay amounts to $12 million of lost economic opportunity to the South Island economy.
5 The water allocation for hydro-electricity amounts to 250MW or 1200GW hrs (Source: Meridian Energy), enough to power 150,000 households. The value of the electricity would be approximately $30million per year.