Coronavirus: 'Shovel-ready' projects to bypass RMA in effort to reboot economy

David Parker.
David Parker. Photo credit: Newshub.

Cabinet has approved the fast-tracking of large shovel-ready projects, largely bypassing the Resource Management Act.

The announcement Sunday morning, from Environment Minister David Parker, comes as the Government continues to identify projects which could be begin sooner with a large injection of public money.

The aim is to boost the economy as it enters a sharp downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new act, due to be passed in June, would take away the ability of the public and councils to have an input into whether projects proceed and instead hand this power to small panels of experts, chaired by an Environment Court judge.

Parker said the sorts of projects that would benefit from quicker consenting included roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent landfill erosion.

Parker said projects that include transport, environmental benefits, and housing will be prioritised under the plan.

He said the changes were approved last week and new legislation is expected to passed in June.

"We are acting quickly to get the economy moving again and our people working. Part two of the RMA will still be applied. Projects are being advanced in time, but environmental safeguards remain," Parker said.

"The consenting and approval processes that are used in normal circumstances don't provide the speed and certainty we need now in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19. The new processes will get projects started sooner and people into jobs faster.

"Investment in infrastructure is central to the Government's economic plan to keep New Zealanders in jobs. We have already signalled major projects as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade project."

Parker said ideas from district and regional councils, as well as NGOs and the private sector, will among those considered.

"Job-rich projects like core infrastructure, housing, and environmental restoration are crucial to the Government's plan to stimulate the economy and help us recover from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.