Greens concerned about fast-track law change

The Government is proposing a law change that would allow infrastructure to be fast-tracked to create jobs and speed up our economic recovery from COVID-19.

But the Green Party may be the only party to oppose the law change which will see parts of the Resource Management Act bypassed at the expense of public consultation.

Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall is hoping the city's Dublin Street Bridge will be one of the projects that will come from the law change.

The bridge is over 100-years-old and McDouall says it's at the end of its life.

"It's a grand old lady and a real icon of Whanganui. But it does need a replacement in the next 10 years. 

"When we can get any Government money it really is an economic boost for the city."

A new one wasn't expected for at least a decade but now thanks to COVID-19, it could come much sooner.

To fast-track development, the law will be changed to allow the consultation parts of the Resource Management Act to be skipped for some projects.

Environment Minister David Parker says the changes will help "to give jobs to people who are displaced by the effects of COVID-19 so they can move into new employment that otherwise wouldn't be available.

"When you've got extraordinary times you justify extraordinary measures," Parker said.

The change would see improvements going ahead for roads, walking and cycling trails, housing, sediment and silt removal, new wetlands, and flood management.

The proposed law change will last for two years and it has bipartisan support except for the Green Party, who have concerns about bypassing consultation.

Green Party Environment Spokesperson Eugenie Sage says the ability of the public to participate usually means there is much more information in front of decision-makers. 

"We're watching closely when the bill goes into Parliament for submissions to select committee."

Councils across the country have published their wishlists of projects they want to be completed.

Auckland is asking for 73 projects to be allowed which would total $7 billion and include bringing forward parts of major projects like the City Rail Link.

And there are billions more, Tauranga's asked for help with $656 million worth of projects, Wellington $650 million, Christchurch $818 million and Dunedin $211 million.

A final list of projects will be sent to Ministers in around a fortnight then the Environment Minister will decide which projects could be fast-tracked. 

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