One of Shane Jones' more endearing qualities is his abhorrence of stupid rules.
Rules that benefit no one but prevent people from doing things, and all too often make the doing much more expensive than it needs to be.
Mr Jones made his distaste for excessive bureaucracy clear last time he was in Parliament. Now he's back, and hopefully more incensed than ever. If not, perhaps the Far North can nudge him in that direction.
The latest victim of mind-numbing idiocy is Opua School's longstanding regatta. Like all school galas, this is a family day, Opua's point of difference being water, and particularly the famous dog swimming races. And like all school galas, it seriously needs to be a financial success.
"So the regatta has been consigned to history, at least until someone can find a politician with more brains and gumption than we have become used to."
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Schools need the money, and some collect a good deal of it. This leaves more in the government kitty to pay bureaucrats. Opua reckons it's had a good day if it goes home with $3000.
It might achieve that this year, but the canine swimming sensations can stay home. The gala will take place on the school grounds, because bureaucracy has kicked it out of the water.
The problem is that to be legal the school needs a traffic management plan. It's been staging these regattas illegally for some years, it seems, and a polite inquiry this year regarding the rules resulted in bad news — pay for a traffic management plan or shift ashore.
So how expensive would this plan be? Apparently about $1000, quite possibly more. Quite a chunk out of a good day's takings for a small school. Too much for the school to countenance, actually. So the regatta has been consigned to history, at least until someone can find a politician with more brains and gumption than we have become used to.
The specific difficulty is that Beechy Street runs along the waterfront where the regatta participants and spectators tend to congregate. And, as people do, they will wander backwards and forwards across the street. Quite a hazard when you've got heavy metal objects whizzing past at walking pace. The risk is obvious.
This is what the rules are designed to prevent, of course. Despite the fact that the regatta does not actually have much of a record — or any record at all, to be precise — of leaving mangled bodies on Beechy Street when everyone packs up, the potential for mayhem is obviously too terrible to contemplate. Hence the need for a plan stating how the body count will be minimised.
Given the process involved, a grand or two is probably mate's rates. As the writer understands it, the Far North District Council — and let's be clear, the council is not the villain here; its just the messenger — approves the plan that is bought and paid for by the applicant. Ka-ching ka-ching.
Then the people who will actually put the plan into action are hired. Ka-ching ka-ching. This, after all, is not a job for volunteers. You can't have parents of sound mind and body directing traffic. Be sensible!
These people have to be trained. They must be qualified, professional road cone shifters (RCSs). One assumes they have a degree or a diploma or something to distinguish them from the great mass of normal, intelligent, community-spirited, unqualified beings who would impersonate them given half the chance.
Most of these events happen on weekends and holidays, of course, so the RCSs can expect penal rates. Ka-ching ka-ching KA-CHING!
To coin a much overused expression, this is madness. Whoever made these rules in the first place has probably gone to their reward by now, but they have to be undone. We are reaching the point where no one will be allowed to do anything, lest someone break a finger nail.
Your mission, Mr Jones, should you choose to accept it, is to take this to Wellington and bang some heads together.
Shouldn't be hard to persuade a party that allows alcohol and minors to mix at a party summer camp that said minors would be safer at an Opua School regatta, even without a traffic management plan.
Of course Opua is not alone. Ask the organisers of the annual Rawene Races family day.
They've had to tidy up their programme — and fair enough, the ambos have been kept fairly busy in the past — but once again common sense has been scratched. Health and safety rules might — might — have something valid to say about people who flirt with crippling injury or worse, but there was really no need to put the kaibosh on the food stalls.
Last year a food inspector was not pleased with what he saw, apparently. He closed one stall and told the organisers that others were not quite to the required Michelin Star standard. And if someone had some dodgy raw fish and got crook, they, the organisers, would be personally liable.
That, understandably, was enough to give the organisers the collywobbles. So, no food stalls in 2018. Give me strength.
This is the Far North. If people want to support their community and tuck into local cuisine that might not have been stored or prepared in a Masterchef kitchen, who are these people to tell them they can't? Let us take the risk, if there is a risk.
Don't close down the whole shebang because someone's pre-cooked sausages were in a not so chilly bin. Get a life, and let us have one while you're at it. Don't come here throwing your weight around, threatening people who are doing more than you've ever done to make their community a fun place to be with dire legal consequences if someone gets a tummy ache.
Meanwhile, even the district council isn't immune from this traffic management rubbish. Early this year it had to deal with a burst sewer pipe on a back road, not a motorway, outside Russell. Took them a while to get there — because it took a while to prepare, you guessed it, the traffic management plan.
Two people, two stop/go signs. There's the plan. Drop the $1k into my bank account when you're ready. Or take it off my increasingly exorbitant rates.
Some see the council as a willing accomplice, but that might be a little harsh. In fact the organisers of this week's 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza were granted an exemption by the council, albeit after considerable toing and froing.
Well done. You know what they were exempted from? Applying for a resource consent — to put up their tent! Too many exemptions like this and we'll be staring at anarchy.
The Bonanza chaps didn't find it easy to get their liquor licence either. Fair enough. There needs to be some level of control, but the issue this year was the recent demise of Kaitaia Taxis. That apparently put a whole new complexion on the vexed issue of how these fisherpeople were going to get home at the end of the day.
If 1000 fishers, their families and hangers on, were going to rely on one taxi to get home every night they would still be queuing at Labour Weekend. You have to have a special talent to explain, rationally, how the loss of one taxi might raise a red flag.
So come on Jonesy, get into it. Let's open the windows and let some fresh air into this claustrophobic little country. There's a bronze bust on the waterfront at Opua in it for you. Assuming it won't be a traffic hazard, and someone can afford the resource consent.