Why you should make a submission

Why you should make a submission

NZTA have spent a lot of time and taxpayers’ money to create their application. It is huge – almost 7000 pages so far. And there are things in it that would affect you, directly, if you live anywhere in the Kapiti region. During construction there would be huge traffic movements of large trucks, for years to come. A massive amount of earth and fill would be required to be brought into the region. Their working day would be 6:30 am until 8:00pm, plus night time work where beams for bridges would be placed. Temporary diversions would be frequent, as would noise, dust, and general nuisance. After construction ends, there would be traffic noise, air pollution, more congestion on Kapiti and Te Moana Roads, for example. The closer you are to the proposed route, the worse off you would be, but no-one would get away unaffected.

The language and images used by NZTA, and the sheer size of the application, are designed to make you think it’s all a done deal – “look, here’s the plans! here’s how it’s going to happen! Just accept it!” – but they still have to get approval and that is not guaranteed, which is why they’ve budgetted $2.5million for the application and consenting process.

The next stage is the Board of Inquiry where a judge and some Environment Commissioners will hear the application and listen to the evidence provided before granting or denying the consents required to proceed. They will hear experts provided by NZTA and they will hear experts provided by people and groups opposed to the application. They will hear lawyers from both sides argue that the application complies with or breaches the RMA. They will hear from the individuals and groups themselves why this application should be denied. And they will read all the submissions that are sent in, both for and against.

The Environment Court process is supposed to give anyone the chance to champion their cause and be heard. It’s a necessary part of the Resource Management Act, and the Board of Inquiry is a fast track through the process. Anyone who followed the Western Link Road proposal knows that these actions can drag on for years, while all aspects are considered and appealed. The BoI speeds that up with a 9 month deadline, though it can only be invoked for projects of national significance.

A key aspect of this speeded up process is the submission. This is the chance where you, as an individual, can speak to the Board and tell them why this project would be bad for you, personally, and the community you live in.  NZTA’s application talks about numbers, land parcels and many technical aspects that are necessary for the board to know, but it doesn’t say much about people and nothing about individuals. The Board need to know how people are affected. Evidence from the Transmission Gully BoI says they are keen to know and want people to make submissions and appear before them to help them understand the full impact of this proposal.

This is why you should make a submission – to help the Board understand. If you don’t make a submission, you can’t appear before the Board and answer questions. You can’t make them aware of special considerations you might require even if the proposal goes ahead, such as the need for noise barriers, health concerns regarding asthmatics and others, visual pollution and the like. If you don’t make a case for mitigation, it’s unlikely that you’ll be considered. If the project is approved, the Board can attach conditions to construction, even down to individual properties, that NZTA have to obey.

There are a huge range of matters under the RMA that NZTA have to comply with. You don’t have to submit on all of them. Pick the one(s) that affect you most, or that you care about the most, read the relevant piece of the application and tell the Board why you don’t think the measures proposed would satisfy your requirements under the RMA.

You don’t have to appear at the hearing if you don’t want to, but you may have more impact if the Board can talk to you directly. You do need to say in your submission whether you want to appear, but you can decide not to appear before the hearing starts.

Bodies that receive submissions from the public know that not everyone will make a submission. The work on a ratio of around 1:10 – that is 1 submission means another 9 people agree with it. If the Board only get 20 submissions against the proposal, they’ll think there’s only around 200 who actively oppose it, which indicates that the rest agree or are neutral. If they receive 600 submissions against, they’ll take notice that there is a sizable proportion of the population opposed to it and they’ll be more interested in finding out why.

This is they only chance you have to have your say and be heard. All the “consultation” that NZTA did was only “feedback” (which NZTA admitted in the meeting we had with them at El Rancho last year) – in our opinion, it was window dressing to that they could tick the boxes in their application that say “Yes, we have consulted”. If a groundswell of Kapiti residents oppose the application and can point to saying the same things they said in the “consultation” for the last to years, it will make the Board look a bit circumspectly at NZTA assurances throughout the application.

It’s time to speak out.

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