Friday, July 19, 2024

Govt to fast track one-stop-shop for major projects consent

The Coalition Government’s new one-stop-shop fast track consenting regime for regional and national projects of significance will cut red tape and make it easier for New Zealand to build the infrastructure and major projects needed to get the country moving again, RMA Minister Chris Bishop and Regional Development Minister, Shane Jones said today.

The Fast Track Approvals Bill has been approved by Cabinet and will receive its first reading under urgency this afternoon, before being sent to the Environment Committee for public submissions, the Minister confirmed.

“Consenting major projects in New Zealand takes far too long and is far too expensive. A recent report by the Infrastructure Commission shows that the cost of consenting infrastructure projects has increased by 70% since 2014, and the time it takes to get consent has increased by as much as 150% over the same period,” Mr Bishop said.

“We are determined to cut through the thicket of red and green tape holding New Zealand back, make it clear to the world that we are open for business, and build a pipeline of projects around the country to grow the economy and improve our productivity.

“The Fast Track Approvals Bill is based on the previous RMA fast track regime developed by the previous government but is far more extensive in its scope and will be far more effective.”

Projects will become eligible for fast track through one of two ways – either through a referral by the joint decision of the Ministers of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Transport upon an application, or by being listed as a project in Schedule 2A of the Bill. 

Once a project has been referred into the fast-track process, it will be considered by an expert panel which will apply relevant consent and permit conditions. Panels will have a maximum of six months to do so. The project will then be sent back to joint Ministers to either approve the project (with conditions) or decline the project. Ministers will also be able to refer a project back to a panel if they determine the conditions recommended are too onerous. 

Projects listed in Schedule 2A of the Bill will be automatically referred into the fast-track process, and the listing of a project in Schedule 2B of the Bill will be required to be taken into account by Ministers if and when a project comes before them for referral into fast-track.

The Bill does not currently contain any projects listed in either Schedule 2A or 2B. To ensure a thorough and transparent process, the Government will be establishing a Fast Track Advisory Group of independent experts to provide advice to Ministers on what projects should be included in the legislation. In the coming weeks, Ministers will establish the group, publish the criteria, and applicants will be able to submit projects to the group for evaluation. Cabinet will decide on the exact mix of projects and the projects will be inserted into the schedules of the Bill through the select committee process.

“The one-stop shop nature of this new regime is overdue,” Mr Jones says.

“For too long New Zealanders have had to wait years, even decades, before crucial projects in their regions are approved and consented, and the benefits flow to communities. Our new fast-track regime starts to change this.”

The new regime will allow the fast tracking of:

  • Resource consents, notices of requirement, alterations to designations and certificates of compliance under the Resource Management Act 1991;
  • Marine consents under the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf Environment Effects Act 2012;
  • Section 61 land access arrangements under the Crown Minerals Act 1991;
  • Applications for archaeological authority under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014;
  • Concessions and other permissions under the Conservation Act 1987 and Reserves Act 1977;
  • Approvals under the Wildlife Act 1953;
  • Aquaculture decisions under the Fisheries Act 1996.

The Bill will also include a more efficient mechanism for Public Works Act 1981 processes.

“Our new regime will unlock the construction of major infrastructure projects in this country while still ensuring the protection of our environment and existing Treaty settlements,” Mr Bishop says.

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