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Fast-track consenting to get projects moving

Environment Minister David Parker

Government has announced a law change that will fast track eligible development and infrastructure projects under the Resource Management Act.

Environment Minister David Parker says the sorts of projects that would benefit from quicker consenting included roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal from silted rivers and estuaries, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent landfill erosion.

The changes were approved by Cabinet last week and new legislation is expected to be passed in June.

“We are acting quickly to get the economy moving again and our people working. Part 2 of the RMA will still be applied. Projects are being advanced in time, but environmental safeguards remain,” David says.

“We went hard and early to beat the virus and now we’re doing the same to get the economy moving too.”

He says the success of the health response gives them a head start on the world to get the economy moving again.

“This fast tracking process will allow our economic recovery to accelerate.

“The consenting and approval processes that are used in normal circumstances don’t provide the speed and certainty we need now in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19. The new processes will get projects started sooner and people into jobs faster.”

Investment in infrastructure is central to the Government’s economic plan to keep New Zealanders in jobs, he says.

“We have already signalled major projects as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade project.

“Ideas from the district and regional councils as well as NGOs and the private sector will be considered.

“Job-rich projects like core infrastructure, housing, and environmental restoration are crucial to the Government's plan to stimulate the economy and help us recover from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some large-scale government-led projects, including those in the NZTA’s Land Transport Programme, will be named in the legislation to go through the fast-track consent process. Some works by government agencies will be able to start “as of right”.

“Projects that help alleviate housing challenges, encourage active transport and enhance the environment are prioritised under the proposal,” David says.

A number of “shovel-ready” projects identified by the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group are likely to be accelerated under the fast-track consenting process.

‘These are “ready to go” developments which can start once the construction industry returns to normal.

The fast-track process is designed as a short-term intervention to help with economic recovery from COVID-19 and the legislation will be repealed in two years.

 Existing Treaty of Waitangi settlements will be upheld, as will sustainable management and existing RMA national direction. 

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