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Gareth Hughes: RMA law change, more crony capitalism

Kia ora, Mr Assistant Speaker. Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou. Kia ora. I do not think it would be a surprise to the people of New Zealand when National is putting a bill about the environmental protections of New Zealand that it would be a bill that is anti-environment. I do not think it would surprise anyone in New Zealand that a bill the National Government was putting on the Resource Management Act (RMA) would avoid and take away local people's right to have a say what happens in their towns and communities. I do not think anyone would be surprised by that. I am definitely not surprised by the anti-environmental positions coming from the pro-pollution party.



If you sum it up very, very briefly what this legislation does, it does nothing to help greenhouse gases. In fact, climate change still cannot be considered under the RMA, because National voted against Eugenie Sage's amendment. This bill gives the Minister, Nick Smith currently, but who knows how long he is going to last, the power to reach into communities to fast track consents, to override local decision-making. This bill limits citizens' rights to know what is happening in their communities and what councils are deciding on their behalf.

This bill does absolutely nothing to deal with the real issues facing our housing crisis in New Zealand. That is an absolute smokescreen, a straw man argument used by the Government. This bill does not address the important issues facing our country, when it comes to the dire, dire housing crisis.

The thing I want to focus on, though, is how this bill affects a small part and amends the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act. This bill, in its 200 pages, changes quite a few different pieces of legislation, but this has relatively flown under the radar and it is deeply troubling. It is deeply disturbing. I think it paints quite a strong picture or an insight into the current National Government.

What this amendment bill does is it takes the ability, currently held by the Environmental Protection Authority, to set a decision-making body to hear consents for things that happen in our waters. Guess where it goes—that power to appoint those decision makers? It goes to Nick Smith. The Minister is grabbing the control, and I will tell you why. The reason it is happening is that Nick Smith and National did not get their way. It was a law they passed. It is a relatively recent law. It is only 4 or 5 years old. They thought they would smooth the way for their friends in the seabed mining industry, for the New Zealand Transport Agency to build these gargantuan Basin flyovers, but because they did not get their way, they are changing the law. They are going to change the way these panels are formed, because National did not like it when independent experts came up with a different outcome from what they wanted.

I think this is a salutary lesson for the country. What happened is when Trans-Tasman Resources, which was wanting to mine 50,000 tonnes of the seabed, did not get its way, National is going to change the law. When Chatham Rock Phosphate, which wanted to mine in our most productive fishery, and the fishing industry was opposed and presented compelling evidence why, to an independent decision-making committee, it ran to the Government, and National is changing the law.

When the family carers fought the Government for 10 years through the courts, what did this Government do? It went and changed the law, so they could not have their day in court. When the Basin flyover was rejected by independent experts, what happened? National is changing the law, to make it easier. When Anadarko was upset with protesters in boats, who might wave banners in front of their offshore oil installations, National changed the law, under urgency, to make it not happen.

So here you see a pattern. When their friends in some particular industries do not get their way, National changes the law. It is not just that. When other industries' law change is not in their interests, National will dole out public money. So when Tīwai had National over a barrel, it called up John Key, and John Key gave them $30 million to keep the Tīwai smelter going. So when they did not get their way, they got taxpayer money. We saw the same with Skycity—taxpayer largesse once again.

What you see summed up in this legislation, with the powers taken from an independent decision-making committee, given to the Minister to decide who those people are, is a pattern of crony capitalism—a Government that is governing in a crony capitalist fashion. There are a lot of reasons why you can object to this bill. Here is just another.