The schemes will be fast-tracked under a new law to help rebuild the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. The fast track law is a short-term intervention that will ‘self-repeal’ in two years.
Environment minister David Parker said: “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 new 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 specified in the legislation and assessed as suitable for the fast-track process. They include roads, cycleways, rail upgrades, water storage, and housing developments and have the potential to provide an estimated 1,250-plus jobs.
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.
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.
“We are looking forward to ideas from a range of people and organisations including district and regional councils, iwi authorities, NGO’s and the private sector,” said Parker.
Notified applications for resource consents take on average around four to six months to process, depending on the complexity, significance and the level of contention involved. The new fast track processes are likely to take 45 to 70 working days.
Some transport projects will be able to start one to two years sooner under the fast track measure, depending on conditions set by the panel.
Thirdly there is an ability for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail Holdings to undertake repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on existing infrastructure in the road and rail corridor as a permitted activity. The work would not require a resource consent, but is subject to certain standards.
“Accelerating these projects will create opportunities for more employment and a boost to local economies,” said Parker.