Government reveals 'job-rich' infrastructure projects getting fast-tracked approval amid COVID-19 downturn

A water storage facility, roading upgrades and residential units in Queenstown are part of 11 initial fast-tracked infrastructure projects the Government has announced to help stimulate the economy. 

"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. It will allow for projects to proceed through a fast-track consenting process. 

Once the legislation has passed, the projects will be referred directly to Expert Consenting Panels who will set the conditions on the projects before they can proceed, largely bypassing  the Resource Management Act (RMA) process. 

Each panel will be chaired by a sitting or retired Environment Court Judge, or senior RMA lawyer. The panel will have three to four members and include nominees from relevant local authorities and local iwi authorities.

Applications for resource consents typically take on average around four to six months to process for approval, depending on the complexity, significance and the level of contention involved.

Environment Minister David Parker said by comparison, 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, Parker said. The law change will only be in place for two years. 

Parker is currently undergoing a review of the RMA, and he is expected to release it before the September election. 

He said he will "set out proposals for long term reform to fix the issues that have plagued the resource management system for many years". 

The list of 11 projects below: 

  • A Kaikohe water storage facility in Northland will provide water for agricultural and horticultural use and drinking water which is expected to provide 70 jobs. 
  • High density housing planned on the Unitec site in Auckland is expected to create 250 jobs. 
  • Up to 180 residential units and retail space is planned on an old school site in Queenstown, which is expected to create 100 jobs. 
  • Dwellings are planned across six sites in Kaitaia, Pt Chevalier, Raglan, Waitara, Chatham Islands and Christchurch as part of the papakāinga development project. 
  • Upgrades are being made to Britomart station in Auckland to ensure the City Rail Link project can operate at full capacity once services commence, and this will create 30 jobs. 
  • The electrification of rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and the construction of three rail platforms is expected to create 85 jobs. 
  • A suite of smaller projects aimed at increasing the passenger and freight capacity of trains between Masterton, Levin and Wellington is projected to provide 90 jobs. 
  • Upgrades to the Picton Ferry Dock and Terminal is expected to create 200 jobs. 
  • The Northern Pathway, a cycleway and walkway between Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland, is expected to create 50 jobs. 
  • Upgrades to State Highway 1 between Papakura to Drury - with the aim of responding to population growth and providing transport options for people in south Auckland - is projected to create 350 jobs. 
  • Te Ara Tūpuna, a cycleway and walkway between Petone and Ngauranga in Wellington, is expected to create between 30 and 40 jobs.