RMA: a cautionary tale

Once upon a time, in a land not very far away, there lived a king. True story.

Once upon a time, in a land not very far away, there lived a king. The king was sad; mainly what he knew was Growth, and the cutting of things: taxes, trees, Red Tape. “If only,” he said to the queen, “if only, my queen, there were a way and we would reach the land of Surplus, which I hear tell, is full of sacred Cows and a very fine land indeed.”

Now: concealed in the grounds of the castle there was what is called a “haha”, into which wandering peasants might fall, to the hilarity of those watching from the castle walls. It had been a devil of a job to get consented - the councillors tasked with making this decision feeling that it was not quite a fair trick to pay on the local poor, for it looked for all the world as if the land was a green and pleasant one, and free, and to the enjoyment of the many not the few – but in the end, they got it done.

And through the grounds of the castle ran a little stream, and it pleased the queen, who fancied herself as a dairy maid, to have it filled with milk, for bathing, and also, drinking, because the water wasn't so good.

And all were set to work, cutting down forests and making farms for the Cows who would fill the rivers with milk, and the land with gold.

After a time, there came to the castle word from the mythical land of Epsom, where the rich might do as they pleased, and indeed had done, as regards Electoral Law in recent times. What they wanted, of course, was the right to do as they pleased in anyone else's back yard, and not their own, and privately, the king thought the young man a bit of a fool - that it would go badly once it was understood that you might do as you please and your neighbour might also do as he pleased, which was a right less enthusiastically enjoyed.

It was tradition, every year at the castle, to make alterations to the Royal Mansion: RM, for short. The king, who enjoyed a bit of DIY, surveyed his options … if I just, he wondered, knock out this bit here, which I do not like...
“Ooops,” he said, “never mind, no one will notice I am sure, or anyway, we can just fix it up next time around.”

Time passed, and it came to pass that all was not well in the land. The Treasurer, sent to summon sacred Cows, found the royal Farmer in a Hole, excavating with his digger, though cow shit was almost up to the windows. Though the outlook seemed grim, somewhere at the bottom, others were sure, one must find gold if the hole were deep enough: perhaps, about six feet down. And sure enough, a kauri tree rose up and the queen was pleased. “For I do not like swamps” she said, “dig up them all”.

And: tear them all down, said the king, of the trees - perhaps they are the root of the problem, let us have root and branch reform and none to cast a shadow on my kingdom. And there were fish floating to the top of the rivers, kereru falling down out of the trees (the ones still standing). See, said the king, how well we do.

They took a white goat, and they cut out its heart. A thundercloud covered the sun, with an almighty bray, and lo, there stood before the king and queen an Ass. “The Ass has kind eyes, and big ears to hear you with,” said little Amelia standing by watching in the crowd, “it seems a good although stubborn animal,” and they prodded the Ass, but when they could not find out how to make it go, settled for giving it a kick every now and again.

The thunderclap roused Geoffrey Palmer's ghost - although it never sleeps, and is quite alive - “return to unbridled power,” it said, and some other things like: “not supported by empirical evidence or analysis”, and "significantly and severely weaken the ability of the RMA to protect the natural environment and its recreational enjoyment by all New Zealanders", and it strode round at night, booming in the castle walls, and the king couldn't sleep and lay counting and said, something must be done.

“Send for the planners,” cried the king, vexed. “Here, your Majesty,” said a small voice, from under a pile of paper, “we can't get out”. The king took out his abacus, and had it explained to him that of every 100 beans, less than one was bad. People started to question whether the RMA was more of a hindrance to the peasants than a help; or at least, that's how the story went. Others said: fewer than one percent's about right, that's the law doing its job, sifting bad beans out of the bottom of the pile (but by all means, let's rescue the planners). But the one percent were annoyed.

So they put up Collaboration, on a golden pedestal; while taking Participation away with the other hand. And the people were confused because, as they rightly said: “we agreed on most things before, and argued about hardly any things” - we were not being Litigious - and further, offers of RMA collaboration from the Parliament had been spurned and mocked by the king, while he was busy sacrificing goats. But verily, it was a magical thing, this trick being played, and one could hardly help but be impressed.

There we leave the last, least, loveliest - now lost - kingdom, and it's up to you to help write the ending. But I think it goes something like this.

Let's put on the pedestal what is good for people, and place, and not for sacred cows; and the RM Ass would go along very well, provided people would stop kicking it and let it have its head and keep its heart, fatten it up a bit, and give it a good word of guidance here and there. And as for growth: it needs sunlight and oxygen, the best disinfectants, as well as soil, water, luck with the weather, and lots of trees.