Whitianga Waterways - Who's to Blame?


By Peter Cresswell,

Libertarianz Leader, and Coromandel Candidate

Libertarianz Spokesman to Deregulate the Environment, April 2001



Everyone has been pointing the finger for Sandra Lee's disgraceful decision to delay the Whitianga Waterways consent. Jim Anderton now promises that he will "fix it", but warns it might take "a few weeks". But so what, says Jim. "Given the time they have waited so far, I don't think a few weeks will be the end of the world". Buses full of Whitianga-ites thronging the forecourt of Parliament to hurry things up would be , says Jim, "unhelpful". They sure would be - to Jim!


Note that Jim gives no guarantees; he just demands that Hopper Brothers wait another "few weeks" for the politician to make up their minds about his project - and that's on top of the five years and $2.5 million it's already taken for Hoppers to navigate the Resource Management Act, and then to run up on the shoals of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act.


It's a farce, and a disgrace - but who's really to blame?

It was not strictly Sandra Lee's fault. After all, she was only acting under Marine Park legislation drawn up by Nick Smith from the previous National government - legislation that requires a Minister to take into account so-called 'spiritual values' when considering a consent for such projects. Ngati Maru claimed that their spiritual values will be compromised by the Waterways project, so her hands were tied, she says.


But, strictly speaking, it was not Nick Smith's fault either. Sure, he drew up the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act - and he is still enthusiastic about it - but in preparing this Act he was only doing what was demanded of him, and only following through what his predecessors such as Simon Upton had already begun. This legislation was required to protect the Gulf, says Nick, and it was enthusiastically received.


In drawing up the Marine Park Act, Nick Smith drew upon principles already established in the Resource Management Act. The RMA protects 'kaitiakitanga,' 'intrinsic values,' 'heritage values,' 'significant indigenous vegetation,' and the habitat of trout and salmon. The RMA does not, however, protect your property rights; in fact, in all its 456 pages (plus amendments) it does not even mention property rights! On behalf of all New Zealanders, and future generations of New Zealanders, this Act passes decisions over your own property to politicians, bureaucrats, and consultants - and sends the bill to the property owners. The RMA was drawn up by Labour, passed by National, and was enthusiastically received.


Among a welter of other conspicuous red tape, it is primarily these two Acts that have hog-tied this project and threatened Whitianga's future. The Acts require all property owners to ask permission from bureaucrats, politicians and planners before they do anything on their own property, and mandate that they employ expensive consultants in order to ask for that permission - and Jeanette Fitzsimon's Select Committee has just excitedly announced amendments to make such burdens on property owners even more onerous.


We're under siege by laws that tell us what we should and shouldn't be doing on our own property and with our own lives. But who wanted these laws, and umpteen other laws just like them that tell you in great detail how to live your life, and set up vast bureaucracies to carry them out? Who voted for politicians to put these laws in place, and for the bureaucrats to vigorously enforce them? Who demanded that politicians interfere to such an extent over other people's property, lives and endeavours? Gentle reader, the answer is: "You did!" - and now you see the result. Anybody who ever wanted a say over other people's lives, or who voiced a wish that politicians should have such a say is responsible for the Waterways debacle. Anybody who ever approved of laws requiring that productive people ask permission before they produce is responsible. And anyone who voted for politicians to draw up - and enthusiastically implement - these laws is responsible.


Author Ayn Rand once observed: "When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing you may know that your society is doomed." Any question that's the situation we now find ourselves in? Any question that the laws that got us here were, and are, widely supported? The idea that the productive must ask permission to produce from the unproductive has been rife in this country for years, and it's been largely unchallenged.


American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson once observed that "a government big enough to give you anything you want is big enough to take it all away." And haven't they just! If you have ever favoured bigger government and greater control by politicians; if you have ever supported laws such as these - if you have ever voted to give politicians the power to implement laws such as these - then the person to blame for this fiasco is you.


You can't really blame the politicians, since they're only doing what you voted for. You can't blame Sandra Lee, or Nick Smith, or the other politicians, since they're only doing what they think will win votes. And you can't really blame the consultants, since they're only carpet-bagging on laws that allow them to. No, the only person to blame is the one looking back at you in the mirror!


I trust you have now learnt your lesson.