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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 6—Environment

KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour): What action is the Government taking—

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Don’t get cocky, Grant.

SPEAKER: Order! I think that’s the fourth time—

Hon Simon Bridges: It wasn’t me.

SPEAKER: Sorry; it wasn’t the member? Maybe the member’s getting the blame. I apologise to Simon Bridges for looking at him for the interruption that Mr Goldsmith has made, but maybe it’s infectious.

Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a genuine point of order. You have suspended the reduction of supplementary questions, haven’t you?

SPEAKER: No, I haven’t. I’ve just been softer, all right?

Hon Simon Bridges: You’re a good man.

SPEAKER: The member does tempt fate.

6. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: What action is the Government taking to support employment following the COVID-19 epidemic?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): An important element of this Government’s COVID-19 rebuild plan is a law change to fast-track eligible projects under the Resource Management Act (RMA) to help get New Zealand moving again. The primary purpose of the plan is to bring forward employment opportunities. We went hard and early to beat the virus, and now we’re doing the same to get the economy moving too. The success of our health response gives us a head start on the world, and this fast-tracking process will enable our economic recovery to follow. The new processes will get projects started sooner and people into jobs faster, but Part 2 of the RMA will still be applied to protect the environment.

Kiritapu Allan: What sorts of projects will the legislation support to get up and running quickly?

Hon DAVID PARKER: We want to spread new employment opportunities throughout the country in a wide range of projects. Projects which could benefit from quicker consenting include: roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal from silted rivers and estuaries, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent land erosion.

Kiritapu Allan: What safeguards will be in the legislation?

Hon DAVID PARKER: The primary purpose of the plan is to assist New Zealanders to obtain employment as we recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19. We’re helping by getting projects up and running but also ensuring that Part 2 of the RMA continues to apply and that Treaty obligations, national directions, and district plans are also upheld. As Minister for the Environment, I will filter projects through to an expert panel, and that panel will, in general, approve projects and, in all situations, will set conditions to ensure environmental standards are applied. The panel will have a cross-section of expertise required to make decisions quickly. It’ll be chaired by a current or former Environment Court judge. There will be the opportunity for some written input, as applications will be shared with a named group of NGOs from a range of sectors, and that will be done as applications are put to the panel.