Nick Smith risks humiliating defeat
By Richard Harman (author)
The next stage of the Government's attempts to change the Resource Management Act with a massive 300-page amendment bill are likely to be one of the biggest tests of MMP we have seen.
There is now no guarantee that Environment Minister Nick Smith can get the legislation --- or critical parts of it – through the House as both the Maori Party and Act threaten to vote with the Opposition.
No Government has been defeated since MMP was introduced on a piece of landmark legislation in the Chamber because its coalition partners have voted against parts of it.
That is what could happen here.
It would be a major humiliation for the controversial Environment Minister.
Though negotiations are currently going on, POLITIK understands that so far the big deal --- which is to get Maori Party support --- is not locked down yet.
The focus of the opposition is likely to be what is best known as Clause 360D which is a clause allowing the Environment Minister to over rule any local authority which decides to use its district plans to declare itself GE free.
So far four authorities --- Hastings, Whangarei, Auckland and the Far North --- have done so.
There is, however, a nationwide campaign modelled on the 1980s nuclear-free campaign to have more authorities declare themselves GE free.
The Maori Party oppose the clause because, like the Greens, it is totally opposed to the introduction of genetically modified organisms into New Zealand.
The Labour Party opposes the clause because it believes it is an excessive use of Ministerial powers and their Environment spokesman, David Parker, argues that the proper place for any legislation about GE should be in the act which is intended to regulate it --- the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.
Act opposes the clause because, like labour, it sees it as an over reach of Ministerial power.
ACT Leader, David Seymour, says the party has drafted four ammendments to the Bill, one of which would simply delete the clause.
The Opposition parties – and unless they can get a deal with the Government, the Maori Party too --- should be able to support this amendment.
What it means is that there is a theoretical clear majority in Parliament opposed to the clause.
But while the Maori Party might support the clause, Seymour is also proposing to remove the new enhanced iwi participation agreements from the Bill.
NZ First - could support that. Labour have spoken against the agreements but are unlikely to risk a fight with Maoridom as a whole by opposing the proposals.
Seymour says “the Resource Management Act helped create the housing crisis through its several hundred pages of bureaucratic processes, red-tape and anti-development bias.
“As resource management legislation is before the House, we have an opportunity to fix it,” he said on Friday.
“But instead National and the Maori Party offer us, even more, complexity and cost to development.
“This is a continuing nightmare for prospective homeowners who desperately need more houses built.”
Seymour’s amendments would also:
- Amend the principles of the Act to acknowledge the value of property rights, infrastructure, economic development, and land supply for a growing population
- Abolish the use of urban growth boundaries in areas of population growth
“The abolition of urban growth boundaries was supported by the Opposition last year. I look forward to seeing it pass into law with their support during committee stage,” he said.
“ACT will support the Resource Legislation Amendment Bill if our amendments are accepted
“ ACT cannot support the legislation as it currently stands.”
However just how the Maori Party, Labour or NZ First would handle any amendment from ACT or is open to question.
NZFirst Leader, Winston Peters, is being enigmatic about the whole situation and told POLITIK he believed there could be a number of amendments to the GE clause.
Labour believe that the only way to deal with the Bill is to oppose it altogether while the Maori Party plainly see electoral kudos in driving a hard bargain directly with the Government.
Thus Smith might be able to rely on it the petty political rivalries between the four parties which oppose the clause to see a failure to unite them to support the removasl of the clause.
But he is walking a legislative tightrope.