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Friday, 14 September 2007

CONSENT APPLICATIONS ARE NOT CRIMES

Applying for a resource consent is not a crime. But too many people are being put through such suffering and hardship you could be forgiven for thinking that they have committed some terrible criminal offence and are being punished for it.

At this stage (the 13th of September) I have met over a third of the eligible voters on the island, and expect to meet perhaps half, and I have been greatly encouraged by the way I have been accepted, or welcomed, or welcomed warmly. Before I started I was passionate about Waiheke Island. Now, having met so many fellow islanders, I am very passionate, and even more thankful that I live in such a special place.

But there are three people in particular who stand out in my mind, people who if I were on the Board would sum up the reason I was there, why I wanted to be there, and why I would have to put everything into the job. Two are women, the other is a man.

The woman is the mother of a handicapped child. All she wants is to build a carport. Hardly a major construction. She needs protection from the weather while she is getting her daughter and all her equipment out of the car. But time is vanishing away and money is vanishing down the maw of the bureaucracy. And it rains... [Footnote, mid 2008: She got her consent, after eight months, for a mere $1600. A carport!]

The man has a small business. He is a down-to-earth fellow, about fifty, the sort who is the salt of the earth, trustworthy and straight as a die. He has had to go through the resource-consent mill over and over again because of the business he is in, and has been getting a raw deal. His weary sigh as he said, 'There should be honesty,' expressed all evils of the world.

Then there was the woman who was ruined by a botched consent application and now lives in very unsatisfactory conditions. She has no bathroom, there are holes in her walls, she is only just hanging on. Grinding poverty in an advanced country, where that is not meant to be.

Those are the faces I would keep in mind if I were on the Board, and they would make me even more determined to make sure that those who carelessly inflict such misery are brought to heel.

Set against those three people is the planner who told me that she had never seen any application go through in the twenty working days that the Resource Management Act lays down, a fact that very obviously caused her not the slightest distress. Then there was the planner who when kindly reminded that she was not processing bits of paper, she was processing people's lives, retorted, 'Oh, don't lay that one on me.'

No one should have to suffer because of the application of law. Laws are made for people, not the other way about. Those who are being cruel to others using the excuse of due process must change, or be changed.