A week of poor process continues for the government as it side-steps consultation with its decision to approve mining on the Denniston Plateau

Sorry about the absence, but I've been making television and trying to absorb the pros and cons of drug decriminalisation (and I might blog on that soon). But in the meantime Andrew, Claire and our very special guest Anne Salmond (New Zealander of the Year, no less) have been doing some impressive heavy lifting.

The government's legislative agenda has been appallingly flippant in the past week or so and I'm delighted Pundit bloggers have taken such a stand. Many of us have been concerned about this government's approach to process this year. I blogged in February, March and April about the Prime Minister's focus on outcomes over process and I've long opined that the everyman casualness that he built his political career on will one day be his undoing.

That's not what we're seeing this week; it will take some poor process in a realm that directly effects middle New Zealand to really wound him. But this week's urgencies and unwillingness to listen to the people is part of a damaging narrative. New Zealanders don't like being taken for granted.

To the examples laid out in this week's other posts, you can add today's Denniston Plateau mining decision. Conservation Minister Nick Smith headed to a West Coast car park today to announce government approval for "an open-cast mine on 106 hectares of the 2026 hectares that comprise the Denniston Plateau".

Regardless what you think of the plans to mine the area -- the ancient rocks and slow-growing flora versus the $1 billion in six years and hundreds of jobs promised -- the process again seems to be an example of politics trumping democracy as other institutions -- y'know, the voice of the people and the courts -- are disrespected.

First, National has announced the expansion of mining a day before changes to the Crown Minerals Act requiring public consultation for significant mining proposals on conservation land. It has gone out of its way to minimise public consultation.

Second, National has given political approval to the mine while it is subject to legal action in the Environment, High and Supreme Courts. Now I'm no lawyer, but journalists tread warily around court cases lest we be seen to be influencing a jury or judge and somehow polluting deliberations.

Now, the Environment Court at least has indicated it's inclined to let the mine go ahead, but surely the government should not be presuming the outcome of the cases with this kind of announcement. It seems presumptuous and disrespectful.

Sadly, it also seems all too typical.

Last week's Budget was utterly to type. It was called grey and conservative and the like, but it should really have simply been called 'Bill's Budget', because it was utterly in keeping with what we've come to expect from Finance Minister Bill English. It was focused on the here and now, with little vision or inter-generational planning. It was focused on maintaining, not building. It was clever management but managed nothing particularly clever. It acknowledged the key problems facing New Zealand and tinkered with them, without offering any substantial solutions.

Such conservative financial management has some virtue in troubled times. But National's political management has been far less cautious. 

From early concerns about its use of urgency, through the SkyCity deal and various brain fades, and on to the Ian Fletcher phone call and handling of the GCSB, the disregard for good process have been there in flashes.

But what we've seen this week raises the concern that this disregard has become the new normal for National; that no-one in Cabinet seems willing to question how it's doing its business.

When being questioned about an issue he doesn't want to touch, John Key likes to say he's too busy running the country to bother with it. But the question now is over just how well he's doing that job and whether he's giving it due respect.

Comments (1)

by Andin on May 26, 2013

"But the question now is over just how well he's doing that job and whether he's giving it due respect." 

Well that's two questions, but anyway, the short and correct answer to both is a big NO.

But someone could probably s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out into 46 minutes of mind numbing television so with commercial breaks thats an hour of our lives we will never get back, on a subject with an easy answer.

And the only reason anyone would bother to do such a thing is.

We are supposed to (according to the screwed up norms under which we now live) show this dropkick respect because he is a prime minister. When all he is is a self serving motor mouth, who thinks he can weasel his way out of anything. And if you haven't figured that out yet, your head has got itself in a position most would attribute to practitioners of an eastern discipline that has remarkable linguistic similarities to a George Lucas character going by the name of Yoda. 

I am trying really hard to not lower myself to the use of obscenities because I'm surmising you would regard such usage as an indicator of an uneducated mind, not that I give a sh*t. It shows how completely farcical our societal norms have become and how the double standards, that in my youth were in their infancy, have grown into almost living breathing monsters so fearsome that those who make their living though the use and propagation of language, informing the rest of us about our current affair. Perform daily rituals (I would say contortions) to these paper gods making sure not to offend them in the slightest. Because who knows what could happen if one did!

Yes, people who don't deserve any respect have wormed their way into positions where they think the rest of us must bow to a specified height in their presence. And that their position is due to something they did right along the way (in their life "journey") when its all down to plain dumb luck.

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