Thursday, March 28, 2024

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 28/3/24

Past plans are undone by a government keen to make the most of ocean resources and cut that “dam red tape”

Waves of rain are set to lash much of the North Island during Easter Weekend as a low-pressure system forms east of New Zealand, according to a weather forecast published in the past day or so.

Niwa was warning of a “moisture-laden” long weekend, with rain expected to fall on eastern and northern holiday hotspots.

The South Island was forecast to “lap up the sunny weather first this Easter weekend”, but not without a wintry blast laden with snow and gusty thunderstorms.

But some regions are desperate for rain and the government is keen on helping farmers and growers to make the most of the rain that does fall.

And so water – or a lack of it – has been the focus of ministerial considerations over the past 24 hours.

Building and Construction Minister Chris Penk announced the government will be amending dam safety regulations so that smaller dams won’t be subject to excessive compliance costs.

Or as Penk colourfully put it, the government will be “cutting all that dam red tape”.

Agriculture Minister Todd McClay and Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson pitched in by announcing an extensionh of drought support to parts of the North Island.

Ministers with environmental, ocean and fisheries responsibilities, meanwhile, were ensuring that more dollars can be earned from the seas around New Zealand than could be earned if a big ocean sanctuary is set up.

Today Penny Simmonds (Environment) and Shane Jones (Oceans and Fisheries) announced a halt to work on the proposed Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary and the removal from Parliament’s Order Paper of the Bill that would have established it.

Latest from the Beehive

28 MARCH 2024

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will not go ahead, with Cabinet deciding to stop work on the proposed reserve and remove the Bill that would have established it from Parliament’s order paper.

Dam safety regulations are being amended so that smaller dams won’t be subject to excessive compliance costs, Minister for Building and Construction Chris Penk says.

The coalition Government is expanding the medium-scale adverse event classification to parts of the North Island as dry weather conditions persist, Agriculture Minister Todd McClay announced today.

In his media statement, Chris Penk said the coalition Government is focused on reducing costs and removing unnecessary red tape “so we can get the economy back on track”.

“Safety first” must be measured against compliance costs and degrees of risk, in other words.

Penk is pouring cold water over dam safety regulations imposed by the previous government which were set to come into force on 13 May.

They would have required dams over a certain height to have a Potential Impact Classification.

But according to Penk:

“Feedback from farmers and growers is that these new regulations will add an unreasonable amount of compliance costs for the low risk posed by small dams that are used in farms across New Zealand for water storage.

“The week the coalition Government has agreed to raise the height threshold of the dam safety regulations from one to four metres.”

Approximately 1,900 fewer dams will be spared the need to comply with the new regulations, reducing red tape and compliance costs by more than $13.3 million.

This will better align dam safety regulations with the requirement for dams over four metres to also have a building consent, Penk said.

“This higher threshold strikes the right balance of managing risk while easing the regulatory burden faced by owners of smaller dams like farmers and growers.”

You can read more about the Building (Dam Safety) Regulations 2022 on the Building Performance website. The new regulations come in to force on 13 May 2024, owners of classifiable dams must provide their relevant regional authority with a dam classification certificate by 13 August 2024.

Hard on the heels of Penk’s announcement came news from Penny Simmonds and Shane Jones about the halting of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary plan.

The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill which has been scuttled would have created a 620,000 sq km economic no-go zone.

The current marine reserve around the Kermadec Islands extends 12 nautical miles from the shores of the various islands, Jones said.

“This area is ample to preserve the unique environment of the marine life that inhabits the region.

“Making 15 per cent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone a no-go area for Kiwis making their living from the sea, including iwi who received the Kermadecs fishing quota in a 1992 Treaty of Waitangi settlement, makes absolutely no sense.”

Jones reiterated the principles that underpin the decision.

“This is a Coalition Government focused on driving export-led growth by making the most of New Zealand’s natural resources, whether they are contained on our land or at sea.”

Simmonds said the commercial activities already occurring around the Kermadec Islands pose limited risk to its marine environment because of the current marine reserve and stringent regulations helping mitigate environmentally risky activity.

“I am confident that the Kermadec Islands, which already have in place a protected marine environment, will continue to flourish without the further expansion of the reserve.”

An RNZ report last year recalled that the Kermadec ocean sanctuary had been announced in 2015 by then-Prime Minister Sir John Key “to much international fanfare”.

The sanctuary was meant to be one of the world’s largest marine protected areas.

But after years of negotiations to reach an agreement, Te Ohu Kaimoana – a group representing Māori interests in the marine environment – resoundingly voted against the proposal that was on the table in June last year.

The Treaty of Waitangi was brandished during the contretemps.

The 1992 Fisheries Settlement, an agreement between Māori representatives and the government, recognised Māori commercial fishing rights.

Those are rights guaranteed by Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi, Māori insist.

New Zealand First was opposed to the Kermadec sanctuary.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

No comments: