Mike's Minute: Govt's plan for natural areas a brewing scandal

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 18 Jun 2021, 9:44AM

Mike's Minute: Govt's plan for natural areas a brewing scandal

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 18 Jun 2021, 9:44AM

I have become interested in the government's Significant Natural Areas debacle.

It's made news of late because of James Shaw appearing to mislead people over how much is or isn't going on at local council level and the weekend's protest at Kaikohe.

By way of background, this all began under Nick Smith in 2017. A SNA is basically what is says, important remnants of native habitat. The problem is the councils get to decide what to do with it; remember this is your land.

Once they decide it's significant, you're stuck. Existing activity can continue, but future activity is severely curtailed.

First question, how is that fair? Any new activity requires consent; you can imagine the cost and time of it. That’s before you get to the outcome.

So it was started by Smith, but that was at the end of National's time in government.

Remember that was 2017, since then we have had two drafts, none of which clearly were up to much, given the weekend's upheaval and the government hitting the pause button.

Further complicating matters is the shabby way in which the whole thing seems to have unfolded. The term significant is not defined. Remarkable, don't you think? So what is significant? Who would know?

Not all councils have the statutory authority to do the work. There is no legal clarity on what protection means.

Another question is how is it we have councils out there operating on private land when things are so loose around the edges? How is it we can be years down the track with no real and clear understanding of what's in and what's not?

For Māori up north, large swathes of land seem to be under some sort of cloud because of this. You can see why they call it a modern-day land grab.

So, you’ve got councils, who only a minority turned up to vote for anyway, operating, if they can, under shonky half-defined rules. They're wandering onto people's land and determining if it’s significant and if it is, tough luck, that’s any development off until you hire a lawyer.

What sort of way to run a country is this? Grant Robertson finally stepped in and admitted this hasn’t been flash. No kidding, you reckon?

This is little short of a scandal. Good intent, I am sure, but hopelessly enacted.

And like too much of this stuff, this has flown under the radar. God knows how much damage has been done and, until now, we haven't heard about it.