Herald Editorial “suspicious” of Key’s keen scuttling of RMA reform

The Prime Minister was quick to “rip up” the Government’s intended reform of the Resource Management Act after the Northland byelection. Suspiciously quick. He may be oddly relieved to lose the numbers he would need in Parliament to force National’s policy into law. It wants the act’s guiding purposes to include economic development alongside its present list of environmental and heritage protections. It seems reasonable both should be on the RMA’s scales but this is not the first time Mr Key has backed off the idea.

He spent much of the previous term trying behind the scenes to persuade partners Peter Dunne and the Maori Party to drop their opposition to the measure. Last May he publicly announced he had failed to get their support and he said he would take the issue to the election in September. But sometime between May and September the party decided not to make it an election issue and the subject was barely heard in the campaign.

When the election result gave National the numbers to push through laws with the support of Act alone, Mr Key did not claim it was a mandate for his RMA reform, he still hoped to gain wider support in Parliament for a reform bill. Now he has no choice. The loss of the Northland seat leaves him needing the votes of Mr Dunne or the two Maori Party MPs to pass any contentious legislation.

If he sounds happy enough to “rip up what we’ve got now, go back to the drawing board and have another go” on RMA reforms, the reason might also be that legislation in this area is proving to have limited value.

You get the sense RMA reform isn’t John Key’s baby. ?Getting a new flag is however. ?It’s clear he wants to face caucus and say he tried his best, but it is time to move on. ?With the amount of voter outrage every time we so much look at a snail the wrong way, or try to legally fell a tree, explore for oil off the coast, or do anything else that can conceivably put one grain of sand out of place, it would be consistent for Key to want to scuttle the whole thing and leave it in the “for someone else” basket.

And Labour and Winston know this. ?Hence their eagerness to make sure Key can’t walk away from it.


– NZ Herald