Fast-track consenting law boosts jobs and economic recovery

The law to boost the economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19 by speeding up resource consenting on selected projects has passed its second and third readings in the House today.

“Accelerating nationwide projects and activities by government, iwi and the private sector will help deliver faster economic recovery and more jobs as well as address New Zealand’s infrastructure deficit,” Environment Minister David Parker said.

The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill supports and accelerates the Government’s investment in infrastructure, environment and development projects while maintaining environmental and Treaty safeguards.

“This includes supporting the transition to a low-emissions economy and improving resilience to climate change and natural hazards while supporting sustainable management.”

Part 2 of the Resource Management Act, including the recognition of matters of national importance, will continue to apply and reference to it was strengthened.

The Queenstown Arterials Project has been added to the 11 named projects originally listed in the Bill.

This project would build a new urban route through Queenstown, including road, cycle ways and walkways.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council said the project is expected to directly create up to 450 jobs over the two year construction period. Up to 650 other jobs could be created indirectly.

“With the addition of the Queenstown project, there are now 12 substantive projects. They include rail upgrades, residential housing, roads, cycle ways and water storage,” David Parker said.

These projects will go directly to Expert Consenting Panels for decisions and to set any conditions.

“These listed projects will create an estimated 1700 jobs and this is just the start,” David Parker said.

A second pathway under the Bill allows other public and private projects to access the fast-track consenting process by making an application for the Environment Minister to refer them to an Expert Consenting Panel.

“Now that the Bill has passed, this second pathway will be available immediately,” David Parker said.

“I look forward to considering projects from a range of people and organisations including district and regional councils, iwi authorities, NGO’s and the private sector,” he said.

A key change ensures that, when considering whether to refer projects to a panel, the Environment Minister can consider any adverse effects of greenhouse gas emissions.

Application and guidance material is available on the Ministry for the Environment website.

Alongside the 12 named projects and those that can be referred to panels under the second pathway, a third pathway allows Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail Holdings Limited to carry out repair, maintenance and minor upgrade work on their existing infrastructure within the road and rail corridor.

Works by Kāinga Ora, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, or any local authority may be added later.

Media contact: Vernon Small +64 21 849 517

Editor’s Note

Expert consenting panels will have similar powers to consenting authorities under the RMA.

Each Panel will be chaired by a sitting or retired Environment Court Judge, or senior RMA lawyer. They will have a minimum of three commissioners and include nominees from relevant local authorities and local iwi authorities.

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