Regulator needs to wake up

LETTER

Thanks to Judge Dwyer for the strong words admonishing both Juken NZ and Gisborne District Council for their respective breaches of the law.

It’s difficult to understand claims by GDC lawyer Adam Hopkinson that because the council has a relatively low ratepayer base, it cannot afford monitoring activities.

The costs of monitoring compliance with consent conditions can be built into the fees charged for consents, so there is no excuse for the slack monitoring and enforcement by the statutory body entrusted to protect the local environment.
Activities with high risks and high compliance need to pay high consent fees — that’s how a properly-regulated market can promote better environmental stewardship.
I note Judge Dwyer said that paying penalties where a company gets caught should not be just another cost of doing business, but I also note the fine imposed is only one quarter of the costs Juken claims to have spent on remediating just one property and less than one quarter of the maximum penalty that could be imposed.
Given Juken is a repeat offender since at least 1997, and it would seem GDC has been grossly negligent in its duties, perhaps the prospect of jail time should be included in the sentencing options for governors and officers of companies and regulatory bodies responsible for crimes against nature?
It’s time for some big changes in the way we use land in this region — business as usual is not good enough. The sleepy regulator needs to wake up and do the job it was actually created to do, or give the responsibility to another entity that will be better at actually protecting the environment.

MANU CADDIE, Ruatoria

Thanks to Judge Dwyer for the strong words admonishing both Juken NZ and Gisborne District Council for their respective breaches of the law.

It’s difficult to understand claims by GDC lawyer Adam Hopkinson that because the council has a relatively low ratepayer base, it cannot afford monitoring activities.

The costs of monitoring compliance with consent conditions can be built into the fees charged for consents, so there is no excuse for the slack monitoring and enforcement by the statutory body entrusted to protect the local environment.
Activities with high risks and high compliance need to pay high consent fees — that’s how a properly-regulated market can promote better environmental stewardship.
I note Judge Dwyer said that paying penalties where a company gets caught should not be just another cost of doing business, but I also note the fine imposed is only one quarter of the costs Juken claims to have spent on remediating just one property and less than one quarter of the maximum penalty that could be imposed.
Given Juken is a repeat offender since at least 1997, and it would seem GDC has been grossly negligent in its duties, perhaps the prospect of jail time should be included in the sentencing options for governors and officers of companies and regulatory bodies responsible for crimes against nature?
It’s time for some big changes in the way we use land in this region — business as usual is not good enough. The sleepy regulator needs to wake up and do the job it was actually created to do, or give the responsibility to another entity that will be better at actually protecting the environment.

MANU CADDIE, Ruatoria

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P Millar - 11 days ago
Wait up . . . I recall a Gisborne Herald article after the Tolaga Bay slash flood mid-2018 and the GDC CEO Nedine Thatcher Swann stated "There were sufficient staff to handle the 1250 active resource consents".
Admittedly that was not long after the FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the GDC website that GDC had answered about ability to manage resource consents.
"With the rapid increase in numbers of forestry consents we have NOT been able to monitor as much as we would like to. We now have around 1250 active forestry consents because harvest is staggered over a number of years."

Weary ratepayer

G R Webb - 11 days ago
I wrote in March 2017 to this newspaper about the then new appointment of the present chief executive to her position. Even if I say so myself, the words are worthy of a repeat.

"It is a sure and certain truth that every inhabitant of this district wishes the Council's new Chief Executive, Nedine Thatcher Swann, to succeed in her new role. This district needs that success.
Sometimes you have to reflect and gaze inwardly before you can move on. She might, as we should all do, like to ponder what has just been. Our new Chief Executive says she is a very collaborative leader and wants people to work together - traits that will be refreshing.
"The past few years within the Council have seen a well-trodden path to the exit door - managers, executives, accountants, engineers and planners have all moved on or been 'encouraged' to move on. It now puts the organisation on the back foot.
"It takes years for staff to build up institutional knowledge about Council's assets, its processes and the general environment it operates in. In a few short years we have lost a lot of that. Nedine has acknowledged the difficulty with that replacement process - her immediate sub-managers are all (bar one) in acting roles. The talent pool is shallow.
Perhaps our returning Councillors, too, need to take stock of this situation - as all of what has happened was on their watch. They, as well as the ratepayers, might like to know how much was spent on redundancy and exit payments. What were the costs for consultants, HR people and lawyers in dealing with the departures and the engagement of replacement staff? It shouldn't be too difficult to collate and publish. We could try and avoid the same expensive mistakes."

BigMat - 10 days ago
Amazingly a quick check around New Zealand councils shows that not all create a headache for themselves by making thousands of piecemeal resource consents for forestry companies. Many have adopted 10-year consents and then only have one per operation (harvest, road construction, silviculture) per company to manage for harvesting etc, so that would instantly make GDC's task not so much of a paper war.

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