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Power play by the executive

Growing up in 1980s Britain, the cartoon ‘He-Man and the Masters of the Universe’ was all the rage.

With his lush golden bob, short shorts, and improbable musculature – not to mention his enormous sword – He-Man [aka Adam] really was the man who had it all.

By virtue of a supernatural force called Grayskull, he also had “the power”.

And when he had it, you really knew about it.

If sufficiently irked, He-Man would stand tall – usually atop some scenic lookout – ripple with machismo in an interesting bra-top and red hotpants arrangement, thrust his magic sword [imaginatively called the Power Sword] skywards, and bellow, “I HAVE THE POWER!”

Not subtle, but effective.

Previously intractable foe would fall pretty damn quick in the face of Adam’s undeniable awesomeness.

But why is a ‘girl’ like me thinking about a guy like He-Man, anyway?

Blame it on the Fast-track Approvals Bill the government introduced to the House under urgency earlier this month to speed up the delivery of infrastructure and development projects with significant regional or national benefits.

For certain projects – think housing, roads, dams – the bill elbows the Resource Management Act [RMA] out of the way and “will coordinate the granting of approvals under a range of regulatory regimes through the one-stop-shop”.

These ‘regimes’ include the Wildlife Act, the Public Works Act, and the Reserves Act.

Reading the bill’s supplementary analysis report [SAR], prepared by the Ministry for the Environment with some obvious haste, He-Man’s mantra kept popping into my mind.

The sheer scale and scope of this legislation is an object lesson of what can be done if you are lucky enough to have “the power” and are not afraid to use it.

Reading the SAR, one of the obvious benefits of having the power is that you can rush major legislation through with fairly gaping holes, aka “limitations”.

Such as devoting limited time and resources to consult with, well, anyone, during the development of the bill, including with the Department of Conservation, which will have the invidious task of signing off conservation approvals contained in the fast-track regime.

The ministry is also clear in the SAR there has been limited analysis of: What happens when you enable more development on public conservation land; what the actual problem is with the Public Works Act that warrants it being incorporated into the fast-track regime; the impacts on threatened and rare species; or the actual costs and benefits of the legislation on what’s lovingly called “a range of actors” and which includes “the Crown, local government, Māori, the development community, the general public, or future generations.”

[I think they mean us.]

The SAR also indicates the bill is making its quick march through the legislative sausage factory without a real understanding of how “all the linkages for all the proposed amendments” work together and “what the cumulative impacts of all these amendments will be”.

Regardless of your feelings on the efficacy of the RMA, or your love [or otherwise] of development or the environment, the strong arm of executive power is at play here and it might warrant your attention.

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