ECan wants govt to call in dairy consents

January 8, 2010

Environment Canterbury has written to the government asking if it will call in the applications for consent  for intensive dairy farming in the Mackenzie basin because of the potential national impact.

The Government will need to act quickly if it is to follow ECan’s advice, with a decision on two call-ins needed by January 15 and a ruling on the third needed a week later.

Call-ins enable the Government to make a decision, bypassing the lengthy Environment Court process.

The applications have engendered a lot of interest – and more than 3,000 submissions, on the applications.

Many of them may be based on emotion rather than fact and many are based on animal welfare which does not come under the Resource Management Act.

But the content and quality of submissions is beside the point.

People have made submissions and while the consent process may be slow, it will give them an opportunity to have their say.

It is then up to the hearing panel to consider all views and make a judgement consistent with the RMA.

This application may have national implications. Is that a good reason for the government to call it in or is it just an excuse for ECan to pass on the work and let someone else deal with what will be a controversial decision?


15 years, 32 resource consents

July 13, 2008

Lake Hood a few kilometes from Ashburton is an amazing tribute to a big dream and community effort.

The 80 hectare man-made lake has an eight lane international rowing course, an international water ski course and several kilometers of canals with residential sub divisions. It is surrounded by the 173 hectare Huntingdon Park.

It took fifteen years and a lot of volunteer labour to create – but the statistic on the menu at the Lake House Restaurant which hit me was that it also required 32 resource consents.


Consent Appeal Off Track

July 8, 2008

While debate rages over KiwiRail nationwide, North Otago has a local argument over whether a disused line should be re-opened to allow trains to run at all.

A branch line used to run from the limeworks on the outskirts of Weston to Oamaru. It was closed in 1997 and the lines were lifted a couple of years later but its owner, then NZ Railways, retained ownership in case it was needed for a cement plant.

However, when the Waitaki district plan was reviewed in 1993 the designation wasn’t properly recorded. OnTrack now needs it redesignated because it’s the best means of transport for Holcim NZ  if its plans for a new cement plant in the Waiareka Valley come to fruition.

The new plant would be a $400m investment for Holcim but its plans have not been greeted with universal enthusiasm and the Waiareka Valley Preservation Society  was set up to oppose the proposal.

Resource consent was granted in February but both Holcim and the WVPS have lodged appeals – the former over some of the conditions, that latter over the approval.

OnTrack’s application to redesignate the line came in the middle of all this and the WVPS submitted against it. Independent commissioner Allan Cubitt recommended that approval be given and because OnTrack is a requiring authority under the Resource Management Act it makes the final decision. Not surprisingly it accepted the commissioner’s recommendation but now the WVPS, which submitted against the application, is appealing that consent too. Their appeal will be considered with the others on Holcim’s proposal in the Environment Court.

We farm next to the site for Holcim’s plant and another of our properties neighbours the company’s sand pit, which will be used if the cement works go ahead. 

I submitted in support of Holcim’s proposal at the resource consent hearings. I’ll cover the details in a future blog, but the short argument is that there would be substantial economic and social benefits for the district if the cement works go ahead; and RMA conditions will safeguard the environment.

As for the railway line, I crossed it several times a week when it was open before and can’t recall any problems then. People who have built beside the rail corridor since the track closed will have concerns; but once they get used to them they’ll hardly notice a few trains a day – and they will not run at night.

I think the WVPS objections have more to do with the society’s opposition to Holcim than the reopening of the railway line. And that’s one of the frustrations with the RMA – it allows people objecting to one thing to object to another in the hope of stopping the first.


Reef fish rule

June 30, 2008

New Zealand’s low productivity is a national disaster  according to professional company director Kerry McDonald.

Newly elected Federated Farmers president Don Nicolson  wasn’t referring to that when he made the following comments, but the reef fish he criticises contribute to the problem:

“I saw the reforms (subsidy removals) that hurt farmers, and then a transformation in the economy where we stopped seeing people leaning on shovels and growing a career through legislation, like planners and consultants. I call them the reef fish. If you analyse it, the reef fish diminished in the 1980s. We are in a revival of them again from the mid-1990s when the RMA (Resource Management Act) gave them a whole lot of ideas.

“I saw these reef fish nibbling at my production and I didn’t like it. Why should we produce more and more and more to keep these reef fish in a job?”

Carrying the analogy further, Nicolson believes the reef fish have grown to become “piranhas and sharks” – contentious perhaps, but that is how he feels.

It is not only planners and consultants, it’s many armies of people in make-work activity which goes hand in hand with the tick-box mentality bedevilling us and sabotaging productivity.  

Computers were supposed to reduce paper work, instead they’ve increased it and a lot of the paper is generated by people in jobs which require other people to set aside the productive work they are doing to deal with it.


Competition Irrelevant in Consent Application

June 21, 2008

One of the most frustrating aspects of the RMA is the way it allows those in competition to the applicant to lodge objections to consent on grounds which are irrelevant to the application.

Barnados tried this in Oamaru yesterday, against an application for consent to establish a child care centre, but hearings panel chair Cr Struan Munro recognised the attempt for what it was:

 However, Cr Munro pointed out that most of the issues raised by Barnardos were not related to effects on the environment and its submission was based on competition, which could not be considered as part of the Little Wonders’ discretionary land use resource consent application.


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