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‘Overdue’ RMA reform moves forward

It’s Tuesday, November 15 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – made possible by our members! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • The government has announced details of its long-awaited overhaul of the Resource Management Act.
  • NZ picks up ‘award’ for undermining UN climate progress.
  • National’s Hamilton West candidate once advocated for co-governance.
  • Universal dental care would cost ‘billions’, says acting PM.
blog-nov-15.jpg

‘Overdue’ RMA reform moves forward

It’s Tuesday, November 15 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates – made possible by our members! I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund and you can get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The agenda

  • The government has announced details of its long-awaited overhaul of the Resource Management Act.
  • NZ picks up ‘award’ for undermining UN climate progress.
  • National’s Hamilton West candidate once advocated for co-governance.
  • Universal dental care would cost ‘billions’, says acting PM.
Nov 15 2022

Labour alone in defence of RMA overhaul

Photo: Getty Images

National, Act and the Greens have all criticised the government’s newly announced overhaul of the resource management system.

Introduced to parliament today, the government is moving forward with a pair of bills that it says will better protect the environment, cut red tape, lower costs and shorten wait times for key infrastructure projects.

But while all political parties agree there is a need for change, the government’s plans haven’t come in for much support from within parliament.

Act’s David Seymour said the new legislation won’t fix a thing. “Like Labour’s healthcare, polytechnic, and three waters reforms, the reforms are more focused on the administrative structure for government employees than the outcome for people,” he said. “Taking 100 plans down to 15 sounds great, but the content of these plans will be little changed because we are saying a change in administration rather than a change of principle.”

According to National’s Chris Bishop, the new legislation could be even worse than what we currently have now. He said that while National supported reform of the RMA, the party was “deeply sceptical” about whether the proposed changes will make it easier to get things done. “More centralisation, bureaucracy and control is not the answer.”

Though less critical overall, the Green Party also said the announced overhaul “falls short of what is required”. Eugenie Sage, the party’s environmental spokesperson, said the government has missed a “crucial opportunity” to put the climate at the heart of resource consenting.

“Instead of coming up with new laws that put nature and the climate at the heart of our planning and resource management system, the government seems to have bought into the outdated idea that there is a trade-off between quality infrastructure and good environmental outcomes. This just isn’t true,” said Sage.

The government aims to pass the new laws before the next election.

Cambodian PM contracts Covid-19 – a day after Ardern hand shake

Jacinda Ardern hakes hands with Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen (R) next to Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese (Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images)

The prime minister of Cambodia has tested positive for Covid-19, just a day after meeting – and shaking hands with – Jacinda Ardern.

According to Newshub, our prime minister is monitoring for Covid-19 symptoms in the wake of the meeting. Ardern is “feeling fine but is doing a precautionary [rapid antigen test] and will otherwise continue to monitor for symptoms as normal”, said a spokesperson.

That RAT has come back negative.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen tested positive ahead of meetings at the G20 summit in Bali. Ardern, meanwhile, has headed to Vietnam for other meetings alongside a business delegation.

Jacinda Ardern hakes hands with Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen (R) next to Australia’s prime minister Anthony Albanese (Photo by TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images)

Labour and National unified on Māori electoral roll change

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The government has secured bipartisan support for its proposal to update electoral laws regarding the Māori electoral roll.

The law will allow Māori to change rolls at any time and as often as they like except during certain pre-election periods.

As the law change will require 75% support from parliament to pass – given that it applies to entrenched legislation within the Electoral Act – the government needed support from beyond Labour to see it pass.

In order to get support from National, the government made minor concessions to its original proposal. This involved introducing an additional two exceptions to when Māori will be able to switch rolls.

‘Overdue’ reform to the ‘broken’ resource management system arrives

Revenue minister David Parker speaks to media after his GST u-turn (Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver)

The government has announced details of its long-awaited overhaul of the Resource Management Act.

The famously unwieldy legislation has long been the target of calls for an update, though there hasn’t always been political consensus on how that should happen.

Now, environment minister David Parker has unveiled a new resource management system that he says will better protect the environment, cut red tape, lower costs and shorten wait times for key infrastructure projects.

“The current system is broken. It takes too long, costs too much and has not adequately provided for development nor protected the environment,” Parker said. “The existing system has made housing more expensive and contributed to a shortage of homes. It needs to be faster, cheaper and better.”

The new Natural and Built Environment Bill and Spatial Planning Bill, both introduced to parliament today, will jointly replace the existing Resource Management Act. Parker said it’s a long overdue reform.

“Everyone is frustrated – environmentalists, developers, councils, farmers, home builders, and there is cross-party support for the need to repeal and replace the RMA.”

According to Parker, the new legislation will see costs for consumers drop. For every $1 spent the new system is expected to deliver $2.58 to $4.90 in benefits, he said. “On a conservative estimate costs to users will fall by 19% a year, or $149m, equal to more than $10 billion in cost savings over 30 years.”

And it’ll speed up the process of getting things done. Projects like the Transmission Gully motorway north of Wellington would be easier and cheaper to consent, added Parker.

The two new bills will now go through a full select committee process. The government aims to pass them into law before the next election. A third piece of the reform, the Climate Adaptation Act, will be introduced later.

David Parker speaks to media (Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver)

Kiri Allan, who holds the justice and associate environmental portfolios, said the new resource management system will uphold treaty settlements, commitments and arrangements and ensure Māori maintain established decision-making and participation at both a regional and national level.

NZ picks up ‘award’ for undermining UN climate progress

Former climate change minister James Shaw was the driving force behind the Zero Carbon Act (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

New Zealand has picked up an award at this year’s climate conference COP27… for Fossil of the Day. It’s an “award” to recognise countries that have “done the most to block or undermine progress in the UN climate negotiations”.

In a statement, the New Zealand Climate Action Network said the award followed New Zealand “calling for delays to the creation of a loss and damage finance facility, one of the key demands from Global South countries and civil society groups at COP”.

A number of environmental activist groups have chimed in to say New Zealand deserved the award, such as Greenpeace Aotearoa. Lead agriculture campaigner Christine Rose said the Fossil of the Day prize was embarrassing. “It puts us in enviable company – alongside the US, Egypt and Russia,” said Rose.

“The award calls us out for blocking a more progressive global agreement on loss and damage that would make wealthy high emitting countries take responsibility for impacts on climate change.”

ActionStation’s India Logan-Riley agreed: “New Zealand deserves the Fossil of the Day for its constant betrayal of Pacific Nations over decades of UN climate negotiations.”

National’s Hamilton West candidate once advocated for co-governance

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National’s candidate for the upcoming Hamilton West byelection once held a view on co-governance that goes against what his party now stands for.

According to Stuff, Tama Potaka wrote a law journal article that advocated for “50:50 Māori and local government representation” – effectively co-governance.

Of course, Potaka wrote this paper while at Victoria University as a student – and it’s entirely normal to change your views as you grow up. However, it has once again signalled that Potaka may hold different views to the party he is now representing. At an event in September, Potaka referred to a housing policy of the current Labour government as “awesome”.

Meanwhile, Labour has also had to defend its Hamilton West candidate after Georgie Dansey attended a protest against senior minister Andrew Little.

Polling in Hamilton West will close on December 10.

The Bulletin: Proposal to lower speed limits on 4% of our state highway network

I read this headline: “NZTA proposes sweeping state highway speed limit decreases” and assumed Waka Kotahi had slammed the brakes on the entire New Zealand roading network, imposing a lowered speed limit absolutely everywhere. That would indeed be news.

Waka Kotahi is proposing to lower speed limits on just over 500 km of state highway in 440 locations, which equates to around 4% of the 11,000 km state highway network. It is also proposing speed limit changes outside 269 schools, and 11 marae where they are adjacent to the state highway. To take an example on schools, the proposal includes changing speed limits outside three schools in Auckland. The agency’s Interim State Highway Speed Management Plan is open for consultation until December 12.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

Universal dental care would cost ‘billions’, says acting PM

Unaffordable adult dental care is forcing impossible choices (File photo, Radio NZ)

The acting prime minister has effectively said universal dental care would be too expensive to introduce, but admits it’s one of many things he’d like to see happen.

A report released yesterday revealed that 40% of all New Zealanders can’t afford dental care. That increases to 50% when looking at just Māori and Pasifika people.

But while the public health system in New Zealand offers free treatment, there hasn’t been a strong push to see universal dental care offered simply because of the cost. The The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, who commissioned the report, said universal treatment was “critical” for the health of New Zealanders.

Grant Robertson told RNZ this year’s budget provided an extension to who could qualify for more affordable dental care in a move that would help “tens of thousands” of New Zealanders.

“I don’t underestimate the costs with dental care… we will always look for opportunities to expand this. It’s got to sit alongside the many many priorities in the health system,” he said.

Making it universal, however, would cost “billions”.

“We’ve got to get preventative measures right,” added Robertson. “We’re doing that in terms of fluoridation [and] getting toothbrushes to children… we do have to make these decisions across all of health funding.”