There’s a saying that goes “if you want to change the system, you have to become the system”. Those words came to mind this month, after the announcement that a plan change application to create a special landfill zone in the Dome Valley had been turned down, and they came to mind not because of the announcement itself, but rather the confusion that it caused.
Many people thought that the decision meant a new regional dump couldn’t be built there. Not so. The commissioners who turned down Waste Management NZ’s (WM) plan change were the same commissioners who had already granted (four votes to one) resource consent to build a new landfill on the same land. Although that might not actually happen, as appeals against that decision are being made in the Environment Court. But if it does, then the plan change, had it been approved, would have allowed WM to re-designate the land as a special landfill precinct in the future, which could then make it easier for them to build further landfills. Confusing? Well, yes it is. And sometimes it can feel as if that’s a deliberate way of keeping your average Joe or Jo from meddling in such Grand Plans.
As anyone who has had any dealings with council and planning issues will know, trying to understand and find your way through the labyrinthine legislative requirements, processes and departments involved in even simple developments can drive even a sober person to drink. It always seems to be the individuals and organisations who have the money, contacts and inside knowledge to understand and work the system to their own advantage that win.
So when it comes to something as controversial and complex as building a new landfill, most ordinary punters don’t even know where to start in trying to comprehend the systems and legalities involved. It takes time, energy, dedication and a very large dictionary to grasp the frequently incomprehensible language, processes and vast amount of technical information produced. And that’s not a luxury that many people have.
So we take our hat off to the dedicated band of people who have devoted themselves to the cause of not letting a corporate giant and council steamroller over locals’ concerns and countryside, and who persevere in playing by the rules that often seem so stacked against them.