Thursday, May 20, 2010
Owen McShane: Three Tales of StupidityLabels: Local government, Owen McShane
In the Straight Furrow of May 18, Grant McLachlan, in his Human Nature column tells of a farmer exploring the idea of installing a micro-hydro plant to divert some of the water falling over a ten metre waterfall on his property to drive a micro-hydro plant rather than pay $200,000 to replace the aging power line to the national grid. According to the Energywise web site the generator would cost about $15,000, which looked like a good deal, and all in accord with our National Policies promoting renewable energy and so on.
Then he went to the local regional council who advised that it would cost about $100,000 for the resource consent. And that was just for the ecological study and flow measurements. (Councils normally require a consent to extract the water and then after it goes through the turbine a discharge consent to put it back in the river. I suppose they have to cope with the loss of mauri in the process.) He found that experts who were not on the council-approved list would do the job for a few thousand dollars, but the approved experts quoted $40,000 and $50,000 for the same task. Obviously there is money growing on these "approved consultancy" trees.
Then these approved experts said he would probably also need a landscape architect and an "iwi consultant." Then they decided it would have to be notified. So, all up, this small micro-hydro plant would cost $200,000.
So now we know why there are so few micro-hydros around our countryside.
2. The Joy of Defeating Success.
Last Friday's Central Leader tells us that the Onehunga Market has had to close after the Auckland City Council demanded the market close down because it needed a resource consent. The consent would cost at least $15,000, (and maybe $30,000) but worse, the market would have to close for the three to six months it would take to process. The market operated on Saturdays only, and opened in mid-March.
Instead they will look for a new location. The "proper" zone is one block away. Council's position is that the market did not choose to pursue a resource consent, so they closed. Hardly surprising, given that they could have spent all that money, wasted all that down-time, and still ended up having their application declined.
The kindly Council spokeswoman explained where the money goes:
"If the council determined that the application needed to be processed with limited notification or full notification the overall deposit would be $11,000 or $22,000 respectively. The costs reflect the time spent by the planner handling the consent, any hearings commissoners, adminstration assistants and any experts that are involved."
So much for "vibrant" downtowns, and promoting fresh fruit and vegetables, home gardening, sustainable lifestyles, and local initiatives and innovation, and all that other stuff Council documents are full of.
3. Wasting resources on Waste.
Writing in the New Zealand Herald's CollegeHerald page, Adam Roscoe, a year 13 student at Green Bay High School, tells the story of how "$250,000 was flushed down Karekare's toilet in democracy's name".
Just before we left our house at Karekare Beach to finally move to Kaiwaka in 1995, Council began making noises about replacing the old concrete toilets just across the road.
Adam Roscoe reports that the consulting on this major project (three dunnies in a timber shelter) took seven years. While the battle raged the untreated waste from the primitive loos continued to pollute the nearby stream. It might have gone on forever, but finally Council sought a decision from an Environment Court Commissioner, who recognised "the undisputed need and value of an upgraded toilet system for visitors to this popular recreation area."
They must be flash dunnies because they cost $479,000 to build. I wonder how much it would cost a private individual to build the same set of dunnies in a private camping ground.
However, the total cost to Council was $730,000 because the cost of consultation was about $250,000.
This takes no account of the seven years of wasted time and all the anger and resentment created by this process which bitterly divided the community. Five years into the drama the old system finally failed and had to be supplemented with Portaloos – which you can admire even today from Google Maps if you target the car park area.
It was fun using Street View to peek at our old house again too. The trees have grown and we would be well screened by now.
Adding it all up.
These three tales, all collected in only one week in May, explain why so many people claim that the regulation of construction and development is now a bigger industry than the industry it is meant to regulate.
The productivity commission has its work cut out.
For more information, please visit the Centre for Resource Management Studies website here:
at 9:45 PM