Is bureaucracy fighting you with your money?

It is amazing isn't it that not only do you pay rates to your local Council, but also now separately to your local Environmental Authority. They collect the money as a rate, they use it to run a business and then when you apply for a consent, they may fight you with your money.

I have just attended both the Large Herds Conference at Mystery Creek and the Agri-Business Conference in Rotorua. A number of speakers at those Conferences talked about bureaucracy growing at an alarming rate, plus the restrictions and delays under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

An old uncle of mine has applied for a consent to replace a bridge across a narrow stream, which provides the only access to his property. The stream is not that big, and the bridge deck is about 8 meters across and approximately 1.2 meters above the water. The abutments (supporting concrete blocks at each end of the bridge) are about 4 meters wide, approximately 1 meter across and about 2 meters down into the water and into the hard base. They were built about 25 years ago, made of reinforced concrete and have done the job well.

So you have got the picture now. Well my uncle wants to only replace the bridge span and leave the old abutments in place. He has spent $20,000 on application, consultants and engineers but is no further ahead. He has been told the abutments have to be replaced (imagine the cost of demolition and removal of those), yet they have been there for 25 years doing an excellent job.

The authority will not make a decision unless every single aspect is covered. So what they are really suggesting is that the old uncle goes to a company that is largely accepted by the Council, who will apply for the permit and build the bridge under their brand and under their engineers etc. I guess Council is worried about a reoccurrence of the situation as in the Berryman case, which is completely unrelated.

So where does that leave my uncle? Frustrated, angry and probably out of pocket by $100,000 for a new bridge, whereas a new steel certified deck on the existing abutments may have only cost him $20 - $30,000 tops. As uncle said to me "Don, they are using my money to fight me".

It is clear that the RMA, whilst it has some excellent points and is a very important part of New Zealand's legislation, if used to the extreme, will be a big impediment to New Zealand and New Zealand agriculture. Right now, New Zealand needs every dollar that is available to go back into production and creation of wealth, to maintain and support the economy of this wonderful nation.

In my uncle's case, most of the money has gone into the engineers pockets. The result of this is fewer disposable dollars to spend on his farm. I am no dissident, but maybe all the farmers need to band together, as they should and as they have done in the past and refuse to pay the rates to these 2 authorities for 1 month. This would show the Government that they have a voice and a determination not to be walked on. As uncle said "upon whose authority are they making the decisions anyway?"

In summary, New Zealand needs to me more aware of what is happening in this great country. Agriculture underpins the national economy and we need to educate the urban sector on this matter.

My uncle is a good example of the impediments that agriculture faces. He worries about the future and what will happen to future generations. With New Zealand's small rural economy, failure to recognise agriculture's key financial role, could spell disaster.


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