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Source: New Zealand Labour Party

Tens of thousands of people showed up to have their voices heard and march against National’s unpopular Fast Track Approvals Bill in Auckland over the weekend.

“It was so heartening to see people of all ages take to the streets and show how much they value transparency, democracy and nature,” Labour environment spokesperson Rachel Brooking said.

“Around the country, communities are worried about how damaging this reckless legislation will be for our precious environment and future generations.”

The Fast Track Approvals Bill concentrates power by giving three Ministers the final sign off on large projects, instead of an independent panel. One of the Ministers responsible for sign-off, Shane Jones, has repeatedly stated he has little regard for the impact on threatened native species and their habitats. Shane Jones has said “if there is a mining opportunity and it’s impeded by a blind frog, goodbye, Freddy”.

Among the companies invited to apply for fast track consenting were some that had made campaign donations to National, ACT and New Zealand First. There are also increasing concerns the Bill would allow ‘zombie’ projects to be revived: for example, mining projects that have been previously declined as they were deemed too destructive or risky. There are also questions about the ramifications for partnership under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, as the legislation could exclude local hapū and iwi from being meaningfully involved in decision-making.

The Fast Track Approvals Bill is going through the select committee process, with the Government receiving 27,000 public submissions – the overwhelming majority of which are against the Bill. Labour is calling on the Government to release the list of projects which could be rushed through under this legislation, so the public can understand exactly what they’ve been asked to give feedback on.

“Alongside the thousands of public submissions opposing the bill, the sheer number of people who attended the March for Nature shows just how unpopular this legislation is,” Rachel Brooking said.

In Government, Labour sped up the approval and reduced the cost of consenting projects like school building projects, housing, clean energy projects and green areas to absorb water in a flood. These projects were approved by independent panels and strongly considered how to work with nature, rather than against it. 

National’s first Budget also revealed over $2.9 billion of cuts to projects solving and adapting to climate change, saw funding halted to Jobs for Nature, key climate research deprioritised and hundreds of job losses at the Ministry for the Environment.

In the coming weeks, Labour will be standing with our communities and putting increasing pressure on the Government to respect our native species and improve transparency around the legislation.

“We’ve heard a clear message from New Zealanders around the country who understand there’s no healthy economy without a healthy environment,” says Rachel. “It’s time for the National Government to front up and start listening to our communities and their valid concerns around this Bill.”

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