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E-Can gets what it deserves – but it’s the RMA’s fault

  • February 28th, 2010

The Press reports that  that Trevor Mallard knew something had to be done to E-Can.

Years ago I heard a senior E-Can official in a tramping hut boasting to his companions of blocking resource consent applications for work on land owned by one of Lady Isaac's companies. She's a Canterbury heroine for philanthropy and conservation and was a finalist for this year's New Zealander of the Year awards.

As I recall he was gloating over the impossibility of the report and recommendation being over-ridden. Apparently it claimed that her property was a vital source of groundwater for Christchurch "and there will be no way for her to disprove it for years". He seemed indifferent to whether the claim was true or false.

I asked why he thought it was such a good idea to block her proposals.

His justification?  "Because she's a fat cat and we're drawing the line on development in Canterbury", or words to that effect. Even under pressing he offered none of the reasons I expected – like preserving environmental asset (apparently the land was mainly ex gravel pits in the airport neighbourhood). It was enough that she was rich and had land on the outskirts of Christchurch and he thought there were more than enough people in Canterbury already.

E-Can had it coming. But usurping local elected government with appointed Commissioners is not a long term answer. What must change is the underlying law that allows Councils to employ and empower legions of planners. The law should not leave room for them to use their bogus expertise to camouflage simple delight in wielding power in support of their ugly prejudices.

The RMA has bred the culture of insolent power revealed in the Hon Wyatt Creech's report.

His recommendation to sack E-Can members is appealing. Democracy can replace them. But the staff may be irredeemable after years of RMA arrogance. Pity it is not them.

PS Lady Isaac's collection of salvaged early buildings cries out to be available as short term accomodation, so people can feel what it would have been like living in our forebears' houses. I'm told the law will not allow it. They'd need too much modification to fit regulations, even though some have come straight from being lived in.


  • pk
  • March 4th, 2010
  • 1:21 pm

It seems to me that the RMA is a problem particulalry in Canterbury as a limted and valuable resource (water) is fought over.  It would appear to be crying out for a tradeable water permit scheme (similar to the fishing quota) that would allow for economic allocation of the resource.  At the moment the science of how much water, the clumsy non-tradeable mechanism of resource consents, and the economic race to claim the water is all muddled up. 
What are your thoughts on a tradeable water permit scheme?


Long overdue. There is already trading in water, but murkily, attached to land. Huge waste in transaction costs


It's disappointing to read your story of the senior ECan official. The Creech Report found that there was a 'we know best' attitude amongst some senior staff in the consenting section and your camping story illustrates this. Bigoted bullies like your example really need to be called to task and have no place in a senior level at any organisation.
Having said that, the Creech Report identified ECan as having a lack of staff skilled in planning and resource management in the consenting section. In contrast to your call for fewer planners, the report recommends:
"ECan needs more planners, resource management specialists, economists and social scientists on staff to better provide for a broader range of perspective and allow balance between environmental, economic, social and cultural perspectives."
I think pretty much everyone would agree with that recommendation, and it is also clear that some senior staff need to go.

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