Monday, April 22, 2024

Fast-tracked consents to deliver 14,500 jobs, says Environment Minister

The fast-track consenting process has delivered promising results over the past 18 months, including referrals for projects that will boost jobs and bring economic benefits across the country, Environment Minister, David Parker said today.

“At a time when the country needed a mechanism to generate jobs, build houses and infrastructure swiftly and provide investment certainty, the Fast-track process has delivered,” the Minister said.

Around 14,500 jobs and 7,000 homes are likely to be created around the country, he said.

“Nineteen projects have already had consents granted by expert consenting panels. One referred project has been declined, a number varied and many have had appropriate conditions added – all promptly.”

“Thanks to the fast-track process, a new, fit-for-purpose hospital in Dunedin will be built much sooner and a new road in Queenstown is underway that will reduce traffic congestion.

“The Picton ferry terminal will be significantly upgraded, to accommodate larger, lower-carbon ferries.

“This demonstrates the Government’s commitment to investment in our regions.

“Our main centres have also benefitted from this process through much needed transport and housing projects,” he said.

The fast-track process has seen a shared walking and cycling path connecting Wellington and Lower Hutt approved. The project will provide a safe, low-emissions transport option along a major commuter network, Mr Parker said.

“I also welcome the recent decision by an expert consenting panel to approve the Drury Central and Paerata Stations project. This will significantly improve access to rail services, which will help reduce traffic emissions and congestion on busy South Auckland roads. It is expected to create up to 370 full time equivalent jobs over the lifetime of the project.”

A number of large housing developments in Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Hawkes Bay have all been referred via the process.

Applicants estimate that using the fast-track process saves an average of 15 months per project, the Minister said.

To date, 38 applications have been approved by the Environment Minister and been referred to an Expert Consenting Panel.

“I have declined to use the fast track referral process for a number of proposals where I thought more public input via normal processes was more appropriate,” Mr Parker said.

The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 was introduced to boost jobs and speed up infrastructure development, while protecting environmental outcomes by applying the normal RMA environmental tests, in response to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“The Government is reforming the resource management system, a once in a generation opportunity to establish a system that is fit for the future and places the environment at the heart of New Zealand’s development and wellbeing.”

Consideration will be given to whether some form of the fast-track system should be carried forward into the new system. If it is, there needs to be a person in authority taking the somewhat subjective decision of what projects ought – and ought not – to be able to use the fast-track process, the Minister said.

“Currently those screening decisions are taken by the Minster for the Environment, but that may not be practical for the future, and other ideas are welcomed,” he said.

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