Act pledge to reform 'Frankenstein' RMA

Act has announced plans to overhaul the "Frankenstein legislation'' it says the Resource Management Act (RMA) has become.

Leader Don Brash announced the policy today in a speech to the Whangarei Rotary Club, pledging to reform the current system to cut out bureaucracy.

Dr Brash said the original intention of the law was to make it easier for people to develop and use their properties, but that it had instead given license for local government to impose huge costs.

Listing faults with the assessment criteria, Dr Brash cited an example in which a family had to fight the local council to paint their house white because of a colour restriction.

The council insisted the house had to be a dark colour to blend in with the countryside, and after a year-long battle the two parties settled on a compromise of dark cream.

"At this point it should become clear that the Resource Management Act is a piece of Frankenstein legislation. It has grown out of the control and become a danger to us all,'' Dr Brash said.

Act's first step would be to separate the planning functions of councils from decisions on applications for resource consent, to prevent the same people who made the rules from interpreting them.

"Currently, we have something of a Stockholm Syndrome for people who want to use and develop their land. Not only must they be interfered with by bureaucrats, they must pay for the privilege.''

Another aspect to the RMA creating much difficulty was the fact that it allowed interference on the basis of aesthetic, and spiritual values, Dr Brash said.

"These are difficult because they are impossible for anyone to prove or disprove in a just and transparent way.''

If elected, Act would push to clarify that only harms and benefits relating to human welfare should be considered, and that `intrinsic values' should not be.

The party also pledged to reduce fees for consents, give the Environment Court powers to award costs against councils and other objectors to consents when their objections are not sustained by the court, and increase the rights to compensation for people whose land values were reduced by council planning decisions.

National last week announced its RMA policy, which included introducing a six-month limit on processing consents for medium-sized regional projects, such as retail developments, new subdivisions, infrastructure and industrial developments.

Dr Brash today criticised the policy, saying it amounted to "restraining RMA Frankenstein with the filly ribbons of an under-cooked and oversold policy reform''.

He said National appeared to have declared victory over the RMA, pointing out faster consent processing times in the past three years, but ignoring the fact that the economic slow down meant there were less consents to process.


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