NRPP, an Old New Thing05 May 2016
A reader asked me whether the pursuit of a magic IT bullet in BC natural resource management is a result of ignorance, and I don’t really think so.
@benknott because the political direction is implacable, they reasonably attack the technical problem, but in one highly risky lump— Paul Ramsey (@pwramsey) May 5, 2016
If anything, it’s a result of magical thinking, a “drunk looking for keys under the lamppost” reaction to the extremely difficult problem of integrating resource management operations.
As an example of how hard integration can be, consider the relatively “simple” problem of bringing management of resource roads under a single statute and operational regime. The process kicked off in 2008, with legislation introduced and then withdrawn as the government came to grips with the huge number of stakeholders they’d forgotten to engage. Eight years on, the process still hasn’t come to a conclusion.
Yet the good folks at NRPP are willing to promise the political masters they can integrate decision making across multiple resources and land values, through the application of nifty technology, new legislation and business process changes.
There is a going to be a promise/delivery gap here, it’s just a question of how much money will be spent before that becomes clear.
It’s worth noting that this promise has been made before.
The BC Liberal government arrived in 2001 with the grandiosely named “New Era” platform, which included a promise to:
Eliminate the backlog and delays in Crown land applications, which have cost over $1 billion and 20,000 lost jobs.
Fifteen years later, the NRPP Business Case makes basically the same promise, on the same premise – that removing backlogs and delays will result in a permanent increase in provicial resource revenues.
The status quo is unsustainable as the current constraints and challenges faced by the NRS will lead to greater delays in project approval timelines, increases in authorizations backlogs, lost economic opportunities, increases in legal and financial risk, and declining levels of satisfaction with NRS services provided to the public, First Nations, clients and proponents. Investing in NRPP is central to enabling government to deliver on many of the commitments made in the BC Jobs Plan and in the June 2013 Speech from the Throne…
NRPP Executive Summary, 2014
The folks charged with implementing the 2001 “New Era” promise came up with essentially the same solution that NRPP is peddling today:
The government of British Columbia, as outlined in the New Era for Business, Investment and Opportunity document, states its commitment to create a cost-competitive business climate and to boost private sector, investment in the resource sector including the booming Oil and Gas sector. In support of this commitment the Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management has initiated a Business Strategy and Transition Plan aimed at constructing a government-wide registry of land and resource encumbrances. This registry will significantly reduce the costs and shorten the time required in gaining access to land and resources for both government and businesses.
Business Strategy and Transition Plan, Integrated Registry Project, 2002/10/31
The only differences are of scope:
- The 2002 Integrated Registries Project only aimed to consolidate information and processes around land tenuring.
- NRPP aims to consolidate all land and resource decision making, on major projects as well as operational tenuring.
- The 2002 Integrated Registries Project was given a $14M budget.
- NRPP has been given a $57M budget just for Phase One.
Unlike NRPP, we already know how the 2002 Integrated Registries Project panned out:
- The various land tenuring acts, which were going to be combined into a single new piece of legislation feeding a single statutory register, were left intact.
- The register itself was downgraded from a single statutory point of truth, to a somewhat real-time data warehouse of land tenuring information.
- 15 years on, land management decisions are still considered “too slow”, to the extent that NRPP can assert that “as a result of NRPP, the time needed to approve major projects will be reduced, and government will achieve a significant benefit from realizing revenues sooner.”
It’s not that I don’t think NRPP will have some valuable results, just as the Integrated Registries Project did. I just think that, like the old registries project, those predictable benefits could be realized at about 10% of the cost if they were prioritized right up front, and the grandiose promises (predestined to failure) were left at the door.