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Graham Adams on co-governance and the RMA reforms

Hipkins Nightmare

summarised by The Centrist

In his article Co-governance for your deck! Writer Graham Adams notes that an effective campaign against the RMA reforms will be a nightmare for Hipkins.

Adams quotes David Farrar (Taxpayers’ Union) who says the replacement legislation for the RMA is “much, much worse” than Three Waters and will “dictate what you can do with your house, your farm, and your business”. That description is bound to alarm the public.

The new laws have been damned as “co-governance for your deck.”

Adams points out that Chris Luxon and David Seymour have both been highly critical of co-governance. 

The current RMA law stipulates that decision-makers must “take into account” the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, but the Natural and Built Environment Bill goes further and requires decision-makers to “give effect” to them.

Also, Adams says anyone exercising functions under the Natural and Built Environment Act “must recognise, and provide for, the responsibility and mana of each iwi and hapū to protect and sustain the health and well-being of te taiao [environment] in accordance with kawa, tikanga [protocol] and matauranga [knowledge] in their rohe [tribal area]”.

Consequently an iwi or hapū can, at any time may produce a Te Oranga o te Taiao (environmental wellbeing) statement to the relevant Regional Planning Committee. What weight these statements will carry is not specified,but anyone acquainted with the vast power of Te Mana o Te Wai statements in Three Waters will be alert to this possibility. 

The bill also establishes a National Māori Entity to provide independent monitoring of decisions made under the Natural and Built Environment Act or the Spatial Planning Act. This body’s proposed role in relation to the courts, and other serious concerns, led the Chief Justice, Helen Winkelmann, to take the extremely unusual step of making a written submission to the select committee in February.

Noting that “monitored entities” are required to respond to the reports the National Māori Entity prepares, Winkelmann pointed out that the courts appear to fall within the scope of the definition of monitored entities. Winklemann is quoted as saying “We assume this is an error in drafting or an oversight. Providing for decisions of the Environment Court to be subject to review by the Entity would be inconsistent with New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements. Court decisions are appropriately challenged by way of appeal, not by way of review by a statutory entity. Such a review would be constitutionally unprecedented and problematic.

“Still more problematic would be any requirement to respond to such reports… The courts should be expressly excluded from the operation” to ensure “they are not monitored agencies”.

Adams points out that the Chief Justice also warned that the lack of clarity in Parker’s reforms would disrupt and overburden the courts by giving rise to “extensive” litigation.

Also mentioned is Federated Farmers’ RMA spokesperson Mark Hooper who says the new laws were “likely worse” than the current RMA. “Despite the rhetoric of better, faster, cheaper, it’s really hard to see how this will be the case.”

Adams asks “Will Hipkins delay the bills until after the election?”

Poll results between now and October will certainly help to focus his mind.

read Co-governance for your deck! at The Common Room

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