Kill the RMA

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Above: the three great pyramids of Giza. But there could have been ten if objectors hadn’t had their way.

The government wants to reform the Resource Management Act to make it easier for people to build new houses. But the government’s package of reforms is weak and lacks boldness, and fails to address the central problem. The problem is not that the Act doesn’t work properly. The problem is that the Act even exists. The Resource Management Act is a legislative monstrosity responsible for death and suffering on a grand scale. Reform the Act, they say. But can a mass murderer ever be reformed?

We have heard a lot recently about the problems property developers have experienced whenever they have tried to get anything built. But there’s nothing new about the stifling bureaucracy, the high consent fees and the lengthy objection and appeal processes these people have had to endure. The Resource Management Act has long been ruining lives and livelihoods.

Take the Pyramids of Giza as an example. The original plan was for ten of these great pyramids to be built, a plan that would have provided many decades of work for Egypt’s slave population. But these plans were shelved after a successful appeal to the Environment Court by the Giza Protection Society, who astonishingly claimed that the iconic structures would be eyesores that would ruin the natural environment—a desert! And so only three great pyramids were built, resulting in a loss of work for thousands of people.

The Second Punic War is another example. The great Carthaginian general Hannibal was successful in the field against the Romans time after time. But he was never able to secure a permanent base of operations in enemy territory, and the legal expense and red tape he encountered while seeking resource consents for a fortified encampment eventually broke him. The great Roman consul Fabius Maximus is often lauded for his tactic of refusing to face Hannibal in open battle, a tactic that historians have claimed gave Rome time to rebuild after its early defeats. But it was Fabius’ tactic of lodging objection after objection under the RMA that finally did for the Carthaginians.

Also, the events of the First World War can be attributed directly to Germany’s failure to obtain resource consents for the purpose of building a European empire. The consenting process took five years and cost millions of lives, and was ultimately futile. Think how much suffering could have been averted if the application by Germany and its allies to dominate the map of Europe had received a clear and sensible response from planners.

Attempts have been made in the past to change the Act, but none have had any real success. While the Protestant Reformation weakened the power of the Catholic Church and led to the rise of nation states, efforts by property developers at the time to reform the consenting process failed. At the Council of Trent held between 1545 and 1563, bureaucrats and environmental groups re-established the power of local busybodies to interfere in just about every development project ever undertaken, while condemnations issued by the Council labelled property development, full employment and business growth as heresies to be rooted out.

Similarly, in the aftermath of the First World War a number of countries determined that there must never again be a repeat of the long and drawn out processes experienced by so many participants. A League of Nations was formed to bring an end to unnecessary red tape and long building delays, but the great hope held by many that the War to End All Wars would finally force local authorities to reform their consenting and approval processes turned out to be false. The rise of Nazism can be linked directly to the feelings of hopelessness and frustration ordinary Germans felt every time they were forced to go to the Environment Court.

It is a myth promoted by activists and anti-business groups that the Resource Management Act provides better environmental outcomes. If that were true, why then didn’t the Environment Court block the building of a nuclear refinery at Chernobyl? The processes under the RMA failed to prevent the extinction of the dinosaurs and the dodo, and huge chunks of the precious Brazilian rainforest continue to disappear despite the protections to the environment supposedly provided under the Act.  This pernicious piece of legislation is holding back progress. Must the entire human race suffer just because some tree-hugger doesn’t like choking on toxic fumes or seeing dead fish in their streams?

But there is a solution. A very simple one, as it turns out. In deciding what to do about the Resource Management Act we should take a lesson from Alexander the Great. When the great general was confronted with a vast Gordian knot of environmental and planning red tape, he took a sword to it. Alexander knew that to build an empire you don’t ask permission. You just do it.

So let’s do it. Let’s get rid of the RMA. Let’s not pretend as successive governments have done that the Act can be reformed. It can’t be. It’s a millstone around the neck of the human race, and it needs to go. Humanity cannot afford another Hitler, Stalin or Mao. Let’s end this nightmare once and for all. Kill the Resource Management Act. Kill it. KILL IT!