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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Question No. 3—Environment

3. GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: How does he propose that fast-track consenting will help the COVID-19 recovery?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Mr Speaker—Mr Speaker?

SPEAKER: The Hon David Parker.

Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: Sorry, I was just looking for the member—he’s got more distant.

Hon DAVID PARKER: Oh, thank you. I still look the same. The Government’s number one economic priority as we recover from the COVID-19 global pandemic is to create and retain jobs for New Zealanders. Over 45,000 New Zealanders have lost their jobs as a consequence of the COVID crisis, and it is of critical importance that as many New Zealanders as possible can return to the workforce as quickly as possible. The Government plans to introduce special legislation today to support New Zealand’s recovery by fast-tracking resource consenting and designations so that job-rich projects can gain approval as soon as possible—faster than through the standard Resource Management Act (RMA) process. This will bring forward the construction projects, often by months and sometimes by years. This bill helps provide New Zealanders with jobs and incomes and supports the economy to recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Ginny Andersen: How will the fast-track legislation work?

Hon DAVID PARKER: There are, essentially, three parts to the fast-track process to speed up projects and bring forward jobs. Firstly, there are 11 named projects that are referred directly to an expert consenting panel by Parliament. The panel will set appropriate conditions for the projects before they can proceed. The second track applies to applications for other private or public projects. Applicants must provide information to the Minister for the Environment on how the project meets the criteria specified in the bill—in particular, employment. Selected projects will then be referred by Order in Council to panels for consideration. The third aspect is the ability for the New Zealand Transport Agency and KiwiRail to undertake repair maintenance and minor upgrade works on existing infrastructure and road and rail corridors as permitted activities, subject to certain conditions.

Ginny Andersen: How will the fast-track legislation ensure that environmental protections are maintained and Treaty of Waitangi commitments are honoured?

Hon DAVID PARKER: While extraordinary times such as this require extraordinary measures, environmental outcomes ought not to be sacrificed. While these projects are being advanced in time, environmental safeguards remain. Part 2 of the RMA, including the recognition of matters of national importance, will continue to apply. RMA Treaty principles and Treaty settlements will be upheld. Finally, the fast-track law is a short-term intervention that will repeal in two years. It’s not part of the wider review of the RMA—that comprehensive review, led by retired Court of Appeal Judge Tony Randerson QC, is expected to report back soon, and I expect to release that in the next few weeks.