The Government has introduced the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill to parliament.
The bill is intended to urgently promote employment growth to support New Zealand's recovery from COVID-19 by establishing fast-track consenting and designation processes for infrastructure and development projects and enabling specific work on existing infrastructure to occur without the need for resource consent.
Under the bill 11 infrastructure projects will be fast-tracked.
“The bill also opens the way for other projects to be fast tracked to help deliver faster economic growth and more jobs as soon as possible,” Environment Minister David Parker says.
“Job rich infrastructure and development projects of different sizes and in different locations around New Zealand will be prioritised.
“Extraordinary times sometimes require extraordinary measures. However, positive environmental outcomes will not be sacrificed at the expense of speed. While these projects are being advanced in time, environmental safeguards remain. Part 2 of the Resource Management Act including the recognition of matters of national importance, will continue to apply.”
The bill allows for projects to proceed through a fast-track consenting process down three pathways.
On the first track are the 11 Government-led projects ranging from roads to cycleways, rail upgrades, water storage, and housing developments.
Once the bill passes these projects will be referred directly to Expert Consenting Panels, which will set appropriate conditions on the projects before they can proceed.
Expert consenting panels will have similar powers to consenting authorities under the RMA.
The second track applies to applications from other public and private projects that will be considered by the Minister for the Environment before being forwarded to the panel.
Applicants must provide information to the minister on how the project meets the criteria specified in the Bill. Projects that qualify will be referred to Panels for consideration through an Order in Council.
Thirdly there is an ability for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and KiwiRail Holdings Ltd to undertake repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on existing infrastructure in the road and rail corridor as a permitted activity, which means it would not require a resource consent, but is subject to certain standards.
The fast track law is a short-term intervention that will self-repeal in two years.