Big changes looming for Resource Management Act

Yesterday the biggest amendment to the Resource Management Act – its possible complete overhaul, or replacement – was announced by the Minister for the Environment, David Parker. The announcement was of the release of a report by Tony Randerson, recommending the replacement of the Act.

Since it was formed, A.C.T. has been a proponent of scrapping the R.M.A. altogether. However when I have asked them what they would replace it with, usually the answer has been a stony silence or the subject has been changed.

Most National Party members I have talked to seem to be in a similar boat. They say that it would be replaced with sensible legislation, but no one has elaborated on what “sensible legislation” might look like.

New Zealand First and the Greens have not announced an R.M.A. related policy at the time of writing this. Labour has said that it will campaign on the recommendation of the report released yesterday.

But is it entirely the R.M.A.’s fault that it got to the state that we find it in today? Not necessarily. New Zealand was very slow to realize that the statutory plans each council is required to prepare varied wildly in terms of content, presentation and usability. It was not until 2017 that National Planning Standards were introduced.

The R.M.A., like any other Act of Parliament is only as good as its implementation. As the implementation of the Act falls to the various local councils, ministries and governments, it is they who must bear responsibility for this. As councils budgets are restricted by the size of their rate payer base, sometimes they have not got sufficient staff to adequately cover their statutory responsibilities. This can lead to half baked planning outcomes that were not properly thought through.

When the R.M.A. was first introduced it was about 400 pages long. Today it is about 800 pages long.

It will be interesting to read the Randerson report into one of New Zealand’s most controversial pieces of legislation, and see what the justifications are given.

Rio Tinto being selfish in announcing closure of Tiwai Point smelter

For sometime now, Rio have been threatening to walk away from the Tiwai Point smelter. Past attempts have involved the Government agreeing to lower the price of electricity. But now Rio say that the circumstances simply do not permit them to hang on to the Tiwai Point smelter any longer. The plant will close in late 2021.

This is the same Rio that has had significant I believe that Rio Tinto are being quite selfish, and are showing they are not good corporate citizens. After all, Rio have been given N.Z.$30 million of taxpayer money to keep their employees paid for the duration of the COVID19 emergency. It is also the same Rio Tinto that has been subsidised in an effort to keep costs down and keep jobs in New Zealand.

Although the Government has announced plans for a list of “shovel ready” projects to help Southland through these tough times, the devastation that losing so many jobs will have, is difficult to overstate. 2,260 jobs are expected to go, of which nearly 1,000 will be at the smelter itself and the rest in related industries.

Rio Tinto also owe Mataura, where a significant tonnage of dross has been dumped, an apology. Gore District Council has a fairly small rate payer base and cannot be expected to pick up the tab for a problem that was not of its making. The problem came about when 10,000 tonnes of dross was dumped in an old paper mill on the banks of the Mataura River. It then became an emergency when the Mataura River threatened to flood the mill after days of prolonged heavy rain. Days earlier there was a handshake agreement between G.D.C., New Zealand Aluminium Smelter to address the issue, which was vetoed by Rio without explanation.

Research from Hokkaido University however, suggests it is possible to convert dross to hydrogen using a process involving dross and distilled water. In the process the aluminium powder and distilled water is placed in a pressure resistant reactor, with a desired constant water flow using a liquid pump. The liquid temperature in the reactor increased due to the exothermic reaction given by Al + OH + 3H2O = 1.5H2 + Al(OH)4 + 415.6 kJ.

In the case of Gore, even if a hydrogen plant was a shovel ready project, and there was demand for the hydrogen created, due to the proximity of the dross to the Mataura River only an industrial scale clean up can adequately dispose of that much material. It is possible that the Government may be left with no choice but to foot the bill itself, in which case Rio Tinto should be taken court with a warning it will be excluded from the New Zealand mining scene if it does not come clean.


Is New Zealand First about to be subject of Serious Fraud Office announcement?

Minister for Fisheries Stuart Nash has apologized to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters and New Zealand First Member of Parliament Shane Jones for comments made in a telephone call, which aired on television two nights ago. But as this apology goes to air, New Zealand First are facing the prospect of a potential Serious Fraud Office announcement, following revelations that Talleys Fisheries organized two New Zealand First fundraisers.

Perhaps this is related to another suspected fire onboard the good ship New Zealand First. For months there have been concerns about a New Zealand First Foundation, which Talleys has made donations totalling at least $27,000 to. The donations themselves, I should be clear now are not the problem. The problem is how they were handled – or not handled. If the N.Z.F.F. is not part of the party then the likely offences are corrupt or otherwise illegal practices. If the N.Z.F.F. IS a part of the Party then the Party Secretary could be accused of offences around the maintenance of records or failing to declare donations.

In March of this year, a former New Zealand First Member of Parliament and advisor Ross Meurant lifted the lid on his time in the party following an investigation into the N.Z.F.F. by Stuff in 2019.

Potentially serious stuff.

Irrespective of whether Mr Jones wanted to stop camera’s from being placed on fishing trawlers, there is a good case for them being there. Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile will know that I have been following the activities of trawlers around New Zealand, particularly after some serious incidents at the start of the 2010’s. New Zealand marine fisheries are viewed by some as a sort of wild west in terms of (un)lawful conduct, by other nations.

New Zealand’s human rights record, which I take more seriously, is also at risk if we do not make sure that fishing vessels are compliant with New Zealand law and be prepared to prosecute their owners then they are not. The Oyang case, the scampi and hoki allegations show that the actual corruption in the industry is as great as the potential corruption. That it involves Ministers of the Crown is something everyone should be paying attention to.

N.Z. free of COVID19: Where to from here for Aotearoa?

So there you have it. On 08 June 2020 New Zealand became the first developed nation to successfully rid itself of COVID19. We join just a handful of other nations, notably small Pacific Island nations whose borders were closed as soon as they realized the danger it posed, in being COVID19 free. The rest of the world including the rest of the O.E.C.D. nations are still fighting.

Level 1 will be nine hours old when this publishes.

So, where to from here?

Just because we are free of it does not mean we should automatically let our guard down. Nor does it mean that we will immediately reopen the borders. The very vast majority of nations around the world will probably keep their borders firmly shut until the end of 2020 at least, including – with the possible exception of Australia – all of our most important global partners.

In some respect, not having the border open for a short while is a good thing:

  • New Zealand’s many and great tourist attractions now have a golden opportunity to reconcile with the exiled locals who no longer felt welcome at many of them, or were physically priced out of the market in favour of big spending foreigners. They would be fools not to introduce “local rates” – say 25% discounts and those operators who own multiple attractions could offer year passes. The drop in prices would be offset by a hopeful surge in locals coming.
  • It is an opportunity to tighten up border controls, work out any new measures deemed necessary in the wake of COVID19 and implement them, as well as notifying appropriate authorities – Customs; Police; Immigration and give overseas diplomatic posts a chance to digest and act on them (embassies, consulates, and so forth).
  • Get more New Zealanders into occupations that have a lot of positions taken up by non-Kiwi’s, such as farming, horticulture and so forth

It is also a REALLY good time to think about a long term vision for New Zealand. What kind of country do we want to be in 20, 50, 100 years from now?

  • The same old country we have always been – one that is a bit too carefree and slightly ignorant about the world around it?
  • Do we want one that throws environmental common sense to the wind as some currently in Parliament would have us do?
  • Do we want a country that reassesses where it is going and enacts certain reforms, such as the cannabis laws coming, but nothing comprehensive?
  • Do we want a country that after a period of review, begins comprehensive reform that addresses the systemic and racial inequality; sees infrastructure reform as key to the economy; ends the drug wars and embraces our Pasifika neighbours and countries like Germany, Canada, Taiwan and South Korea?

What country, do you want New Zealand to be and why? With COVID19 gone, I believe we would be fools not to have a look at ourselves and our way of live and see what we can do better.


N.Z. in lock down: DAY 36

Yesterday was DAY 36 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

But the economic environment that we need to move into post-COVID19 is not the old unsustainable, throw-away, biota demolishing monster of old. Not if the human world is to avoid early demise caused by inane decisions being made by powerful forces in spite of all the technology, all the knowledge and know how to the contrary. No. If the human world is to continue to grow and enhance itself the human’s that make that world possible much change.

Everything is there, except the political willpower to make that change. But it does not need to be like that.

The change I envisage is something that is not at all new in terms of what I espouse. I have long been a fan of green technology and know how. Whether it is hempcrete to replace concrete because the latter has a massive carbon footprint; the development of hydrogen as a fuel source for vehicles; the extraction of gold, palladium and other valuable metals from e-waste for re-use, the future is green technology.

But it is not just technology, though sustained investment in that will be very useful. The economic recovery will need projects that can be started quickly and get lots of people back to work in a meaningful way. One such thing would be a complete overhaul of the insulation in New Zealand’s social housing stock, which would create a trade boom. The number of houses ready for use in that inventory is nowhere near adequate and so there is a need for new housing projects – Christchurch has an abandoned saleyard at Addington which have not been used for decades; and could accommodate dozens of one/two/three bedroom dwellings quite easily.

There are large scale planting projects that could be getting underway to replant poor quality land that is not practical for farming, building or grazing. To that end I support the Green Party request for $1 billion, which it proposes to use for a range of community funded initiatives. Native forests are very effective carbon sinks and suck up huge quantities, but without intervention to stop possums and other animals from destroying new plantings and stripping foliage, they might become net carbon emitters.

Some projects will be longer term and are quite ambitious. Which is why it is interesting to note the Green Party also has a plan for a $9 billion investment in the New Zealand railway network. In line with New Zealand’s commitment to dealing with climate change, the Greens intend to promote railways as an alternative to the heavy investment in motorways. New Zealand has 1,067mm track gauges, which are similar to some used in Japan for fast trains that can reach speeds of 160km/h. Whilst expensive, the speed of the trains would enable people and goods to reach places nearly twice as fast as a vehicle obeying the 100km/h speed limit.

But as I said at the start, this all comes down to will power. The money is there – the Government has an unprecedented license to spend at the moment. The projects are there and some are shovel ready, whilst others are probably no further than back of the envelope calculations that look promising, and still more are ones that should have been done yonks ago.

So, who is going to give the go-ahead for these projects to get started and get New Zealand back to work?