A selection of infrastructure projects are being fast-tracked to help stimulate the economy - but it's not a process the Government will keep in place because it wouldn't be fair, a minister says.
The Government has announced 11 infrastructure projects that will largely bypass the Resource Management Act (RMA) and instead be referred to expert panels who will set the conditions for them to be approved.
Environment Minister David Parker says the process cannot stay in place for good because people with interests in infrastructure deserve to be heard, as would be the case if these projects went through the usual RMA process.
"Most resource consents affect both public and private interests, and public and private people in New Zealand expect to be able to be involved in the process, including generally turning up to a hearing," Parker said on Monday.
"We're taking away the rights of individuals to submit, and leaving those submission rights on representation groups on their behalf - we wouldn't want to do that forever."
Each panel will be chaired by a sitting or retired Environment Court Judge, or senior RMA lawyer. They will have three to four members, and nominees from relevant local authorities and local iwi authorities.
Applications for resource consents typically take around four to six months to process for approval depending on the complexity and the level of contention involved. These fast-tracked projects are likely to take 45 to 70 working days.
"This week our recovery plan continues," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. "We need deliberate and direct interventions... It will mean that projects that are already funded can get underway quickly."
The specific projects are listed in the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track) Bill that will be introduced in Parliament this week.
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, Parker said. The law change will only be in place for two years.
It's expected to create an estimated 1250-plus jobs.
Business New Zealand is welcoming the announcement, with CEO Kirk Hope saying it will allow rapid development to occur.
"Today's announcement should set the groundwork for fast-tracking larger, commercial projects with the ability to create many more jobs."
Greenpeace has expressed concern at how the new process will bypass mandatory climate impacts assessments set up by the Government at the end of last year.
But Greenpeace is applauding cycling and rail projects named in the legislation, which it said will provide critical transport options as we move to a low-emissions economy.
Parker is currently undergoing a review of the RMA, and says he will release it before the September election. He will "set out proposals for long term reform to fix the issues that have plagued the resource management system for many years".
You can view the initial 11 infrastructure projects here.