People in the quarry industry need to understand the difference between politics and policy and most things don’t really change that much when either one of the major parties leads in Government.
In a confronting address to the 2022 QuarryNZ conference, AQA CEO Wayne Scott says politicians often played politics when sometimes necessary policy changes were rolled out.
He cited the current Government’s Three Waters Reforms which included Maori co-governance of water assets. The politics saw claims of this being a separatist, racist policy.
Scott says co-governance dealt with commitments over 200 years made to iwi by successive governments and not kept. There were good examples of co-governance, some operating for many years, such as that for Auckland’s Bastion Point. Former National Government Minister Chris Finlayson had written a good book supporting co-governance.
The politics of Three Waters suggested the Government was grabbing assets and councils were losing control to another bureaucracy with disproportionate representation, he adds.
The governance model had been changed in response to community feedback and the reality was most councils could not afford to maintain drinking water, storm water and wastewater assets.
Scott lives in Wellington where leaks represent one-third of its water consumption. There were councils trying to deal with such issues with 600 or 6000 ratepayers and rationalisation was needed.
“You can’t have 78 councils in a population of five million,” says Scott who grew up in Pukekohe with tainted drinking water that persisted until very recently, within our biggest city.
Good water infrastructure was a long-term policy issue requiring rationalisation but the current Government was trying to do everything at once, he says. It’s reforms of vocational education, which again were needed, saw lead agency Te Pukenga with 164 staff but no operating model and its CEO on leave.
Scott says unfortunately politicians of all persuasions spent much of their time getting elected or re-elected. The previous Key Government only seemed to have one policy goal in each of its three terms – “at least they got it done.”
On taking office in 2017, new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared there’d be no new mines on conservation land, he says. It had not been Labour policy and there has been little progress since. Quarries and mines already exist in national parks under policies and rules which benefitted everyone, including conservation.
“You’ve got to ask, what’s the issue she is trying to fix?”
“What we need is good public policy. I couldn’t give a rats … about who’s sitting in the chair.”
He says policy fundamentals across environmental protection, climate change and social issues were unlikely to change much through the next election, which under MMP was very likely to be a National or Labour-led government, supported by minor parties.
The AQA and quarry sector had to remain strongly focused on advocating on policy issues including wetlands, indigenous bio-diversity and the Infrastructure Commission’s strategy. Much of its engagement was with Government officials who thought Wellington is the real world.
“They live in a void.”
Quarries should take every opportunity to get officials, councils and MPs on their sites as often as possible to demonstrate the realities of what they did and how much they contribute, says Scott. AQA