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ACT Is Delivering

Posted on 14 Mar 2009

Speech to ACT National Conference,
Raye Freedman Centre, Silver Road, Epsom, Auckland
Saturday 14 March 2009

Welcome.

It’s great to welcome you back to Epsom and to do so as local MP. The people of Epsom have been very good to us. We haven’t forgotten their great support. I don’t take it for ranted. I never will.

I continue to work hard every day to be the best MP Epsom has ever had. I have a great team helping me.

I especially want to thank Edgar Henson for managing a great election campaign; Priscilla Tate who does a great job every day in Epsom; and who can ever forget the phenomenal efforts of Lynn Fergusson over the years.

On behalf of the party I would like to thank our retiring President Gary Mallet who kept the flame of ACT alive in the lean years.

We must also thank Richard Prebble who led us into Parliament and taught us all such a lot. He laid the ground work for ACT’s success.

Welcome especially to those loyal believers who’ve been with us since way back, delivering pamphlets in the wind and the rain. You put in the hard yards year after year.

It’s because of you that ACT is where it is now – still alive, despite the many obituaries – with two Ministers, a hand on the tiller and making progress in achieving our goals.

ACT did not go into the last campaign just to win votes. We campaigned on principles, we campaigned to make a difference, we campaigned on policies – ACT policies. We aim to deliver.

ACT is about shifting the country up a gear, and I can’t think of a better job. Although it’s early days yet – just four months since the election, with a backdrop of a world in crisis – I can report good progress.

We’ve shown we can work constructively with National in government. Our Confidence and Supply Agreement allows us to disagree, deliver on our campaign promises and to contribute as Ministers.

It sets out clear goals, definite policies and transparent processes for ACT to contribute to our country’s direction. It means we can disagree, and yet hold National to account. We can contribute to government but still be ACT. We can stick to our principles and our policies. That’s important, and we can deliver.

That’s my focus as a Minister, and as party leader- delivering.

Party members who kept the faith all through the years didn’t do so for us just to warm our seats in Parliament. It was to change our country’s direction. And that’s what we are doing.

So, what is ACT bringing to this government? And what are we achieving? Contrary to what many people believe, we are not in coalition with National.

Our position is clear. We support them as the majority party. But we sit on the cross benches. We support them on confidence and supply, but do not guarantee support on any other position or policy. It’s case by case.

My deputy Heather Roy and I are Ministers but outside our portfolio responsibilities, we and our three MPs, John, Roger and David, are free to criticise any National policy or decision.

We do that, and will continue to do so – but respectfully. Our aim is not to destabilise the government. Far from it. Our aim is to get better policy and better results for New Zealand.

Both National and ACT want to see a more prosperous and successful nation driven by the initiative and hard work of individuals.

But ACT is the radical party, bursting with ideas. We are a party of reform. We see problems and we want to fix them. By contrast, National is a conservative party. It shares ACT’s philosophy and commitment to private enterprise but is more cautious of change.

However our shared philosophy and vision has provided a great basis for our working relationship. And I think National needs to be, and doesn’t mind being, prodded along.

We campaigned last year to bring our kids home. Too much of our young talent, energy and enterprise is contributing to the wealth of other countries. We need their contribution here in New Zealand.

That means making this great country an even greater place in which to live and to work and raise a family. We want the next generation to know that this is the best little country in the world. That means lifting our standard of living and making our country safe.

Our campaign promise was to catch Australia by 2020. We have compromised – we’ve set the goal with National to catch and match Australia by 2025. That’s a big stretch. It means boosting productivity growth to 3 per cent a year.

We haven’t seen that growth for years. But we are ambitious, for ourselves and our country. We don’t just set big goals. We measure our performance and hold ourselves to account. That’s also what our 2025 Commission will do.

It will measure our economic performance, report to government and to the people of New Zealand, and make recommendations on the changes needed to lift our game.

Our goal of catching and matching Australia by 2025 is not a “business as usual” target. Of course ACT has differences with National on economic policy. That’s what you would expect. We want bolder and better. We are the party of Sir Roger Douglas after all.

All around the world, governments are struggling with the global economic crisis. Some are making a complete hash of it. How lucky are we to have Sir Roger Douglas back!

Not just back, but on fire and contributing to the national debate on New Zealand’s economic direction.

We also differ with National on health, education and welfare policy. We want an end to the state monopolies. We want to empower kiwi families through competition and choice.

We want to make every child count. We want every family’s health to be important. That’s why ACT is radical. That’s why ACT wants reform. We have our differences. We are a different party to National.

But I have been impressed with National’s willingness to work positively and constructively with us and the Maori party, and to listen to ACT ideas and consider them.

Our relationship is proving honest and open. That comes from John Key himself. He sets the tone. He’s developed a new style of working together. John’s a great guy to work with. He appreciates ACT and has been very generous in his relationship with us.

It was great that he would make the time as Prime Minister to open our Conference and to wish us well. He is in my experience a very generous and warm person, very inclusive and open. He’s also very smart. It’s also clear to me that John Key is committed to keeping his promises to the people of New Zealand.

I am fortunate enough to meet John regularly, in a formal as well as informal way. A Leadership Council made up of John and I meet at least every month.

The meetings allow us to consult on major strategic elements of the government’s programme, review progress on lifting New Zealand’s dismal rate of productivity growth, and consider new policy initiatives. The meetings are working well. So we have set out our goal and established our relationship with
National.

Then there’s the policies we campaigned on. It’s the number one job of any government to keep us safe from the thugs and bullies in our homes, places of work and on our streets. Successive governments have failed us.

We campaigned on “Three Strikes And You’re Out” and our Three Strikes Bill is now before Parliament. That’s ACT delivering on its promise.

We’ve got it to Select Committee stage but we are going to need public support to ensure parliament passes Three Strikes into law. National’s commitment is only to support our Bill to Select Committee.

We need the people of New Zealand to make it plain to MPs that they have had enough of violent crime and that to make New Zealand safe we must support Three Strikes through to become law.

We campaigned last year to abolish the dopey Emissions Trading Scheme that will push up prices, lose us jobs and income, all for no great benefit.

This policy was tough to deliver on – National backs the ETS. What we’ve got is a parliamentary select committee reviewing it. That’s a start.

And most importantly, we have a rigorous and quantitative cost-benefit analysis underway. It’s shocking that Parliament committed to the ETS with no regard to the cost.

Thanks to ACT, we are going to know what experts estimate the ETS will cost us. In the current economic crisis it’s nuts to be loading unnecessary costs through the ETS onto businesses.

We should not be running ahead of Australia. We should put the brakes on the introduction of agriculture into the scheme. We should not have the scheme hitting business hard and costing us jobs. We are working hard to get a rethink of the ETS and to mitigate the worst of it.

For years government spending has spiralled out of control. We promised to get spending under control. As a result, we have agreement with National to send ACT’s Taxpayer Rights Bill to Parliament for proper scrutiny.

This Bill will cap government expenditure to the rate of inflation. That’s what it needs. Taxpayers in the driver’s seat on spending, not politicians. I also sit on the Cabinet Expenditure Control Committee and that’s allowed me first hand to see just how out of control Government spending is.

We can get spending under control. We can also get taxes down. Our agreement with National sets the medium term goal of cutting the rate of tax across the board to 30 cents in the dollar.

Tax, spending, law and order. The big three. We also campaigned on rolling back red tape, and what a job that’s proving to be.

Because of ACT we have a government exploring with us the concept of a New Zealand Productivity Commission associated with the Productivity Commission in Australia.

That’s to support our goal of higher productivity growth and improvements in the quality of regulation. We also have reviews of major legislation such as the RMA underway, with the first round of changes before Parliament.

We’re also looking at changes to the Building Act and the Local Government Act. All these changes will have a huge impact on productivity and help businesses, communities and individuals move forward.

Now, to education. That’s most important. We can and we must do better. ACT wants greater choice and competition in education.

I can’t think of a better way of raising standards than by giving parents a choice of where to send their children for their schooling. Choice in education should not be the preserve of the rich.

Led by Heather Roy, we have an inter-party working group looking at ways to increase parental choice and school autonomy. I have high hopes for that working group. So that’s what we have been up to - and that’s just over the first four months.

I have two ministerial portfolios. Both are core ACT. New Zealand is over regulated. The government has got too big.

Resources have been draining from the productive sectors into the state sector, which has been dragging the economy and the country down. Red tape is tying up businesses in knots, in particular those in building, construction or property.

Every time you try to do anything in a building you own, you run foul of the building regulations. The practice of imposing more and more obligations onto businesses and councils must stop because businesses have to pass on those costs to consumers, whereas councils pass them on to ratepayers and consent applicants. Change is needed and ACT is the party to do it.

Businesses big and small are drowning in bureaucracy. In recent years there’s been an avalanche of new rules and regulations. No wonder people gave up on projects – saying “it’s too hard.” That has to stop.

We have taken a “can-do” country and turned it into a “can’t-do” country.
It’s dragging New Zealand down. When ACT went into its support agreement with National, I took on my two ministerial portfolios, Local Government and Regulatory Reform, because these are important areas that affect people and their communities in so many ways.

They’re also areas in real need of change. Here’s what I want to achieve. I have three primary goals.

First, I want to keep rate rises down and encourage councils to focus on core activities. Second, I want greater transparency and accountability in local government. Right now, council processes are rule-ridden, dictated by Wellington, murky and confusing, even to councillors.

My third aim is to cut the red tape. A lot of the problems come from councils’ decisions. But, as I have discovered, central government has imposed huge and unnecessary costs on local government. I intend to change that.

And in fact one of the stupidest new laws imposed by Labour I am taking steps to get rid of, Section 92A of the Copyright Act. This section requires Internet Service Providers to have a policy of cutting off customers accused of copyright infringement.

I believe it should be repealed and I will be taking a proposal to remove the section to the National Ministers responsible. It’s fundamentally flawed because it breaches the principles of natural justice. It makes people guilty without trial, and that is wrong.

We also have reviews of major legislation under way, as well as what I call the “low-hanging fruit”. These are the silly infuriating laws that people have been writing to me about in droves.

We have a taskforce to carry on the work on the Commerce Committee in considering my Regulatory Responsibility Bill that will make government’s law-making more transparent and accountable.

I am also working with Minister of Finance Bill English, following the Job Summit, to improve government processes in law making ahead of our Regulatory Responsibility Bill making it into law.

ACT has a big job to do. I have a big job ahead of me. But I consider myself the luckiest man with the best job and the best opportunity to make a difference for New Zealand and I have to thank you, ACT members, for delivering the best parliamentary team this country has ever seen.

ACT MPs are all strong minded individualists with opinions of their own. I encourage that. I promote lively debate and the free flow of ideas around our caucus. That makes it exciting and intellectually stimulating.

You can’t have Roger there without vigorous discussion and debate on the problems facing our nation and the big policies needed to address them.

Plus each of our MPs has a free vote. The only votes they are obligated to provide are on confidence and supply, because that was our agreement with National.

Apart from that, we discuss as a caucus the way we’ll vote. And no MP is required to vote the way of other ACT MPs. That’s what having a free vote means.

We do it that way because we have seen what happens to third parties with leaders who just dictate their party’s vote. Those leaders end up thinking they are the party, and those parties don’t last.

It keeps us all on our toes debating the ideas and the policies of this government. That’s us as a caucus. We also each have our individual roles.

New Zealand finally has an ACT Minister, in Heather, advocating for consumers as envisaged all those years ago when we set up the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.

We can now give New Zealanders a better deal as taxpayers and consumers.
And our independent schools now have a Minister who’s their champion. Heather’s role as Assistant Education Minister gives her special responsibility for independent schools.

It’s a tremendous opportunity for ACT, for her, and most importantly for our next generation. Sir Roger Douglas is doing what he does best: setting out the economic vision and policy needed for our country to dramatically lift its performance. No one else is going to do it.

Roger’s also been a tremendous help to me, especially because of his knowledge of the machinery of government, and in his strategic thinking. It’s very encouraging having him as part of the team.

John Boscawen drove the opposition to the previous government’s odious Electoral Finance Act. He ran my campaign in Epsom in 2005. He ran ACT’s campaign last election.

He’s a very successful campaigner and is developing into an excellent parliamentarian. With David Garrett we have a leading expert on law and order. We would not have Three Strikes before Parliament if it weren’t for him. Because of David, we will have it passed into law. It’s a great team. I am proud to be a part of it. We have a big job to do. But we are up to it.

I have been asked what our strategy is for the next election. It’s this: to deliver on the promises we made last election. And we are. It’s to show that we are different to National and that we make a difference to government.

It’s to make a difference and to be in a position next election to make a promise to the New Zealand public that they know we will keep, because we have kept our promises from 2008.

Our election strategy is to show that we are a party that delivers. After the next election, I’m aiming to have ten MPs, and eight per cent public support. That’s a big step up. But remember – we have surprised everyone by our success at every election.

We are going to keep doing it. Because we love it. We love our country. And we want the best for our country. That’s what motivates me, like it motivates you.

That, and the goal of being the best MP Epsom’s ever had because Epsom and New Zealand deserve the very best.

Thank you.

Clampdown On Red Tape Underway

Posted on 04 Mar 2009

The Building Act and the laws covering swimming pools and shop trading hours are included in a government-wide review of red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy.

Minister for Regulatory Reform Rodney Hide is directing the review. He says a lot of the rules and regulations which affect peoples' everyday lives and businesses are minor but are past their use-by date or just plain silly. "Others are more serious and can affect jobs, load big costs onto businesses and drive people crazy."

He says the rules around backyard pools are far too complex and impose ridiculous costs on families. "You shouldn't have to jump through hoops just to put in a pool for the kids. There's a lack of clarity in the current legislation that's resulted in bizarre obligations such as having to build a fence around a pool which is already locked with a padlock."

Mr Hide says the shop trading laws need changing. Garden centres can open on Easter Sunday but the Mitre 10 hardware shop nearby, which also sells plants, cannot. That is ridiculous.

Water drinking standards are also included in the review. "Over-the-top regulations imposed by the previous government have put great financial stress on rural communities who were previously happy with their water supply. It's also loaded huge compliance costs onto councils."

The review has only just begun and there will be a progressive rollout of the results through the year. Mr Hide is expecting extensive changes, with a number of regulations likely to disappear altogether.

"Some of the changes will impact directly on just a few people. For example, we're looking at how we can make it easier for overseas-trained professionals to get registered here, rather than having to drive taxis for a living. Other changes, such as reforms of the Building Act, will affect many people and the cumulative effect of removing needless rules and regulations will be substantial.

"People just want to get on with their lives unhindered by silly rules. These reforms will help them do that."

Doing Nothing Is Not An Option - Jobs, Councils And The Economic Crisis

Posted on 02 Mar 2009

Speech by Rodney Hide to Local Government Zone 3 Meeting
War Memorial Conference Centre, Marine Parade, Napier
12.30pm Monday 2 March 2009

Good afternoon.

This is the second Local Government New Zealand meeting I’ve attended recently.

The first one was of the Rural and Provincial Sector members in Wellington two weeks ago.

And I learnt a lot in terms of what are the fundamental concerns and issues for councils in the smaller urban, and rural centres

Such as funding the implementation of new drinking water standards, and the upkeep of vast stretches of roads. I gained a new appreciation of some of the issues before you.

I told that meeting, and I am telling you today, that I think of myself as the Minister for Ratepayers, not the Minister of Local Government.

It’s the ratepayers and the taxpayers, after all, who pay our way.

Minister for Ratepayers is a role I sought when ACT went into its support agreement with National after the election. I also took on the job of Minister of Regulatory Reform.

Regulatory Reform is a new job. It’s the job of cleaning up red tape.

I took on these roles because they’re both important areas in need of real reform.

I have three aims as Minister for Ratepayers.

First, I want to keep rate rises down and encourage you to focus on core activities.

On necessities, not luxuries.

No one wants to pay more rates than they have to.

And there can be no doubt that rates have been rising way beyond the rate of inflation for a good many years.

As have other charges and fees.

So I’ll be pushing for councils to accept that rates rises should be capped at the rate of inflation, or less.

A council may have a good reason or need to increase rates faster than inflation but should get the consent of ratepayers first.

After all, it’s their money.

And it’s a good test for a planned spend-up to get the agreement of those who are paying for it.

Here’s my second aim.

Ratepayers want greater transparency and accountability in local government.

Right now, many council processes are murky and confusing.

I want to change that.

Ratepayers want to know who is responsible for council decisions – and who to hold to account.

We need clear statements about the state of local government books.

And that includes the infrastructure and what’s needed to get it up to scratch.

We need elected representatives able to articulate their vision for their communities with a clear understanding of what it will cost to achieve and who will pay for it.

We need local government staff able to get on with the job but also be accountable for their performance.

My third aim is to cut the red tape that’s strangling businesses, and driving ordinary people and property owners crazy.

I want to see fewer of the absurd compliance demands in the regulatory area.

Businesses are literally being driven into the ground by unnecessary bureaucracy.

I accept that much of the overbearing regulation and petty restrictions imposed by councils comes from government legislation such as the RMA and the Building Act.

And that’s why we’re making changes to both.

The first raft of changes to the RMA was announced earlier this month.

There’s more work being done on the RMA and related issues to simplify and streamline it.

Next, we’re looking at the Building Act.

It also needs to be simplified and streamlined.

However, not all of the problems lie with legislation alone.

Councils have become very risk-averse and over zealous, and need to re-examine their own processes.

We all need to do better. It’s clear why now it is so critical.

New Zealand is in for a tough time. There’s no doubt about it.

Local government has a big role to play in helping ease the worst of it and ensuring we emerge from the world-wide crisis even stronger.

What you do can make a big difference. Let me give you an example.

In 2003 the Talley’s group wanted to put a new meat plant in the lower South Island.

They engaged an agent to search the Southland region and locate a site.

They were conscious that they would face significant resource consent issues.

They needed a site that would minimise any delays.

Their agent arrived at the Invercargill City Council office unannounced and was introduced immediately to the CEO Richard King.

Within 30 minutes the CEO and his team had:

• Identified 2 potential land options, both of which they owned and would make available for sale and were zoned appropriately

• Initiated a registered valuation of the 2 properties

• Engaged a consultant on the effluent issues and potential for the council system to receive and treat the effluent

• Began negotiations with a neighbouring land holder whose agreement was needed to surrender a council lease

• Briefed the Council and Mayor

• Instructed the local legal team to start preparation of the Heads of Agreement and advise on the relevant process and approvals required

All of this was started at that very first meeting.

Within a few weeks of that meeting Talley’s had an agreement signed with the council for the land purchase and effluent treatment.

Various infrastructure obligations were agreed around roading, water and effluent pipelines – all on an arm’s length and commercial basis, where the council undertook to provide facilities at Talley’s cost within tight timeframes.

With those needs established, the design started immediately and within months the first soil was turned on the project.

The following year the plant opened. It now employs 200 people and contributes over $100 million to the region per year.

It was the Invercargill City Council’s attitude that was the prime reason Talley’s later chose to construct another dairy plant in the area.

This one opened last August, once more after purchasing additional land from the council and entering further waste treatment agreements.

The council’s engagement and willingness to facilitate, and the speed with which it acted, was the primary reason the plant was built in the region.

The company could have gone to other dairy areas such as Waikato, Taranaki or Canterbury. Or the whole project may simply not have happened.

But this plant was opened less than 18 months after the first approach was made to the council.

In total, Invercargill’s can-do attitude has seen close to $100 million of investment in the city in the past 5 years, and we will no doubt see further expansion on Talley’s behalf.

In fact, Talley’s are going to double the capacity of the existing meat plant. That’s the difference a council can make.

Full credit to the CEO Richard King and Mayor Tim Shadbolt for the culture of positivity they have created in Southland.

However there are two sides to the coin.

Tim recently told me that having to meet the costs of obligations imposed on the council by central government has meant the rates will now have to rise this year by ten per cent.

Without those obligations, the rates rise would be zero.

I’ve taken on board Tim’s comments and they’ll be incorporated into the reform programme as it advances.

We can and must do much better, both central and local government.

But as it stands, local government is sucking up too much of our valuable resource and putting too much cost and delay on business.

That’s costing us jobs and income.

I have plenty of horror stories told to me personally to confirm what’s happening.

But there are bright spots too.

I know your President Lawrence Yule has made changes in Hastings that make a big difference to the time taken to process consents.

The Hastings system was not performing well under pressure.

So Lawrence introduced a pre-lodgement process where applicants come in and sit down with a planner.

They go over the application in detail and make sure all the material is present.

If it isn't, they go away and come back with what is missing and the process starts from that point.

It saves a lot of time because consents do not go in and out of the system while council staff ask for more information.

In the past, some applicants have had to respond to five separate information requests.

Hastings also has an account manager for key developers and larger users of the consenting process.

This person is the key point of contact and saves unnecessary delays.

That’s all good news. It shows what can be done.

We learnt that at the Jobs Summit where Lawrence chaired an all-day session.

Here are the key recommendations regarding the role local government can play:

1. Local government and central government must work together to prioritise a joint infrastructure investment plan. There are examples of councils having to defer much needed infrastructure because of tough economic times. At the same time, central government is wanting to boost the spend and bring projects forward. We want to include local government work into central government’s consideration. There are projects ready to go that may only need central government to cover the cost of financing for five to ten years to make them happen now.

2. More flexible regulations. For example, not requiring consents for work under a threshold of, say, $10,000 trade cost. I am having officials work on the feasibility of such a proposal. It will need legislative change to enable homeowners and builders to remove any liability from councils and ratepayers.

3. Streamlining of consultation. The mandatory consultation provisions of the Local Government Act are creating big costs and delays. I will be asking officials to work towards making consultation a matter for individual councils to decide on, not for central government to dictate.

4. A moratorium on changes to drinking and water quality standards. The new standards being imposed are putting big costs onto councils and communities. Jobs will be saved if I can succeed in getting a moratorium on their imposition.

5. Aggregate local government debt. We heard that considerable savings are possible if local councils can bundle their debt, and work is now underway to look at the available options. Capital Market’s Group Leader Rob Cameron told us the savings on interest for local government could be up to 100 basis points or one percent on the interest rate.

6. Extending the Mayor’s Taskforce to the wider employment market. Mayors and councils are better placed than central government in determining the market’s needs and where the jobs are possible. Again, I think central and local government need to work better together.

7. Best practice consenting. Some councils are doing well in processing consent applications. Others are not. Local government needs to strive so that best practice becomes the norm.

8. Develop more national standards in regulatory processes to improve efficiencies, especially through the review of the Building Act and RMA. This will save duplication and make it easier for businesses as the same rules would apply throughout the country.

9. Increase the range of permitted activities. For example, relaxing rules around small home-based business. This requires flexibility and a risk-based approach. We may need to revise legislative liability for territorial authorities and some ‘notice’ in LIM reports. Liability should rest with property owners and suppliers, rather than with councils.

10. Review the audit requirements on local government, to free up dollars and staff for more productive use.

Not everything discussed at the Jobs Summit will necessarily make it through to final policy.

But it is essential for us to do what we can to lessen the impact of the world-wide recession and strengthen our recovery from it.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to make it easier for New Zealanders to go about their business and everyday lives…not harder.

Together we can do that. We can make a real difference for kiwi jobs and kiwi incomes.

And I look forward to working with you all on changing local government for the betterment of all New Zealand.

Thank you.

Prime Minister To Be Guest Speaker At ACT Party Conference

Posted on 26 Feb 2009

ACT leader Rodney Hide is pleased to announce that Prime Minister John Key will be a guest speaker at this year’s ACT party conference in Auckland next month. It will be the first time a National Party leader has addressed an ACT conference.

Mr Hide says, “John Key’s willingness to speak at the conference reflects his commitment to our partnership in government and the excellent working relationship he and his ministers have established with the ACT team.”
The event is being held at the Raye Freedman Centre, Epsom Girls Grammar, Silver Road, Epsom on March 13-14.

Other speakers include Graham Lowe, former sports coach and author, and Dr Graham Scott, former Secretary of the Treasury.

The conference is open to media.

Rodney Hide Speech To NZ Property Council Breakfast

Posted on 26 Feb 2009

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a pleasure to be here.

I am delighted to be able to announce to you that the government is conducting a number of regulatory reviews which I am sure many of you have been seeking.

And which will be of great benefit to the property sector.

The Minister of Finance and I have taken papers to Cabinet which has approved reviews of the Building Act, the 2nd stage of the RMA, and the Overseas Investment Act.

Terms of reference for the reviews are required to be finalised by the 30th of April.

In addition, a special parliamentary committee is reviewing the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Parliament wants to know what the costs and benefits of the ETS are. So do I!

Heaven knows, in these stormy times, businesses can do with some good news.

I’ve read the “Roadmap for Reform” document which the Property Council put out last year.

It’s a pretty big and ambitious wish list of changes and improvements you’d like to see.

Good on you, I say.

Be bold and think big.

Since it was written, though, the world economy’s gone into a tailspin.

To my mind, that merely gives more urgency to the reforms outlined in the document.

These are unprecedented times.

For the nation, and the government, it is not business as usual.

So how can we help?

Well, after just three months, I believe we are making changes and carrying out reforms that will make a big difference, not just to property owners, managers and investors…

But to businesses and individual New Zealanders as well.

The Roadmap talks about the stampede to re-regulation which occurred under the former Labour-administration, and the harm it’s done.

We’re well on the way to stopping that stampede.

And introducing some much needed commonsense.

New Zealand is over regulated.

The government has got too big.

Resources have been draining from the productive sectors into the state sector, which has been dragging the economy and the country down.

Red tape is tying up businesses in knots, in particular those in building, construction or property.

Every time you try to anything in a building you own, you run foul of the building regulations.

The practice of imposing more and more obligations onto businesses and councils must stop.

Because businesses have to pass on those costs to consumers, whereas councils pass them on to ratepayers and consent applicants.

Businesses big and small are drowning in bureaucracy.

Over the past few years there has been an avalanche of new rules and regulations.

No wonder people gave up on projects – saying “it’s too hard.”

That has to stop.

It’s been dragging the country down.

When ACT went into its support agreement with National after the election last November, I took on my two ministerial portfolios – Local Government and Regulatory Reform…

Because these are important areas that affect people and their communities in so many ways.

They’re also areas in real need of change.

Here’s what I want to achieve.

I have three primary goals.

First, I want to keep rate rises down and encourage councils to focus on core activities.

On the necessities, not the luxuries.

On rubbish removal, water supply, roads, parks.

Businesses pay a huge percentage of council rates.

It’s one of your biggest costs and I think you can get better value for money.

Second, I want greater transparency and accountability in local government.

Right now, council processes are murky and confusing.

For example we don’t know who at the ARC is responsible for the $1.8 million Beckham fiasco.

The audit Office has had to be called in to find out who is responsible.

We need to know who to hold to account.

My third aim is to cut the red tape that’s strangling businesses, and driving ordinary people and homeowners crazy.

I want to see fewer of the absurd compliance demands in the regulatory area.

And the financial burden placed by central government on local government reduced.

A whole raft of excessive charges, and unnecessary restrictions, is having the combined effect of killing businesses.

For the country, it has the effect of lowering the productivity on which our standard of living relies.

It’s death by a thousand cuts.

Regulatory reform is urgently needed.

Most of you will be aware of the reforms to the Resource Management Act, announced recently.

It’s a good start but it’s just stage one.

There’ll be more work on the RMA and related issues.

Environment Minister Nick Smith will discuss those in detail with your Chief Executive later this morning.

We’ll be reviewing the Act in the future to make it less prescriptive and restrictive.

It will be streamlined and simplified, as will the processes associated with it.

I would like to see legal responsibility – and liability – taken away from councils and placed back where it should be, on the industry and on individual contractors or suppliers.

They have the expertise and incentives to manage it properly.

The reason councils are so incredibly demanding is they’re now paranoid about the possibility of being considered - or found - negligent some time in the future about any decision they make on minor as well as major building projects.

It is appropriate that they’re are stringent and demanding in many areas involving safety and reliability of structures, to prevent leaky buildings for example.

And there should be a desire to continually improve our communities.

But it’s gone too far and it’s got to stop.

Reform of the building regulations will, I am sure, make a great deal of difference to your sector.

And hopefully play a part in allowing you to ride through these turbulent times and come out the other side as flourishing businesses.

The Local Government Act is also long overdue for review.

So that’s on the agenda.

It’s responsible for a lot of the foolishness and waste by councils.

Far too many new obligations, with associated costs, have been passed on to local government – which in turn passes them on to ratepayers, or anyone applying for a building or resource consent.

However although, as I say, these pieces of legislation are responsible for the much of the absurdities, councils themselves must bear part of the blame.

They have become very risk-averse and over zealous.

In particular, the way they interpret legislation – and extend the ridiculous controls into micro areas of a project.

Costs, charges and fees keep being raised way beyond what is reasonable or justifiable.

Three thousand dollars for a consent to build a ten thousand dollar Skyline garage is absurd.

The paperwork’s gone crazy too.

Up to fifty pages of paperwork is needed for councils to approve a garage – whereas two or three used to be enough.

Make no mistake – I accept councils do a lot of good work.

But they have become a block on growth in this country.

We are in a very tough situation economically and we must do everything we can to help businesses flourish and grow.

By cutting costs and the red tape.

I want to free up businesses to do what they do best.

Create wealth, opportunity and jobs.

These are challenging times.

We need to lift our game substantially.

And I believe there are very real economic gains to be made in the regulatory area.

Reform is needed, and I promise you change is going to come.

Thank you.

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