The Loss of Participation

The prospect that the public and community groups like the Dunedin Amenities society may lose the ability to be able to submit on major projects under proposed government changes to the Resource Management Act must be viewed with considerable concern. The changes are designed to streamline the ability of developers undertaking the planning process, but in reality they will restrict the ability of submitters to oppose projects and the scope of their submissions. The current government has cited frustrations with the process and the need to enhance opportunities for economic growth as reasons for the reforms, which will also see limits on consent conditions as well as requiring councils to develop singular resource management plans. The implications for public participation and for the use of individual District Plans at a local level mean that communities will lose the opportunity to control their own resource management decisions. It also means that developers could apply to take applications straight to the Environment Court disenfranchising communities from active participation in the consent process. In essence the power of the process and decision-making will rest with those who have capital and power to push developments through against the will of the community. You don’t have to look too far at the many economic train wrecks and shattered dreams that lie silently wasted in the streets of promised economic prosperity. How many of these economic wrecks have failed New Zealand communities when they are promoted by dubious business visionaries and politicians?

The Society has been an active participant in many public processes where issues may affect the values that its strives to protect and enhance. This most recent example is the Wharf St Hotel Development where the Society has submitted along with over 500 other people concerned regarding the scale and nature of the development. This proposal has polarised people, but the vast majority of submitters have opposed the development on the grounds of scale, design and the lack of appropriateness in the Dunedin landscape. The arguments have never been about economic development, but have looked pertinently at the effects of the development on the environment and the community. Removing that participation in these reforms effectively silences criticism and the right of people to participate in the development of their communities economic and environmental future. The Wharf Street Hotel development process has allowed the Society to make a second submission in 2013 on the details of further information requested by the hearing panel. Under the new reforms that submission would not be possible.

 Ministry of Environment Submission Process

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One thought on “The Loss of Participation

  1. Daseditor
    While I acknowledge the legitimate frustration experienced by people proposing developments and the propensity of certain groups to abuse the privilege of the opportunity to criticise, silencing legitimate comment is not the answer. Babies and bathwater come to mind. Your post therefore is welcomed as a reminder to be watchful. Abuse of privilege can also work in both directions. Abuse of power works only in one direction.

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