Three infrastructure projects to be fast-tracked past Resource Management Act

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker have announced three new projects to be fast-tracked past the Resource Management Act.

Parker, speaking to media after the weekly post-Cabinet media briefing, says the projects include mixed use development on Dominion Road, a foam factory in Huntly and a large development in Auckland, and have been referred to expert panels for consenting under the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act.

The foam factory, if consented will be on land that is 27ha and take up 23,710 sqm, and will involve its own rail spur.

Seventeen projects were named in the Act, which came into effect in July, with the Environmental Protection Authority already giving the green light to one - a water storage reservoir in Kaikohe.

Ardern says the announcement will help accelerate economic recovery from COVID-19.

"Infrastructure is core to our recovery and ensuring we get key projects running quickly will provide the construction sector with certainty within their pipeline." she says.

She encourages developers to come forward to be considered for fast-tracking.

Speeding up the consenting process will provide "much-needed short and long term employment opportunity in the regions and act as a catalyst for regional and economic growth", she says.

Parker says they are estimated to create 2000 jobs during construction and 200 permanent jobs once complete.

"They will also enable up to 160 new dwellings in areas of high demand for housing," he says.

"This latest batch includes both houses and subdivision ... we're trying to improve the supply of both houses and house building opportunities."

The permanent jobs would mostly be at the foam factory.

Parker noted the Act does not replace or circumvent the environmental test that is in the RMA but it provides alternative processes for speeding up decisions on resource consent and preserves environmental safeguards in the RMA.

Treaty of Waitangi provisions and settlement agreements are also adhered to, he says.

The briefing follows Ardern's first conversation this afternoon with Joe Biden as President-elect of the United States.

She told media she had a "positive and warm" phone call with Biden, who she said wanted to reinvigorate his relationship with New Zealand.

She said she offered him access to New Zealand's health officials.

Today's media briefing also follows a new report by the Children's Commissioner into Oranga Tamariki, which calls for an urgent and significant transformation of Oranga Tamariki including a transfer of power to Māori.

Ardern says Minister for Children Kelvin Davis is working with Oranga Tamariki's harshest critics to understand how it can better work with best interests of children in mind.

"No-one wants to see children uplifted from their families' homes, but we all want to see children safe," she says, adding that they are already working closely with organisations that have ties to iwi and whānau.

"It's all about expediting and speeding up what we're doing."

Earlier today, the prime minister would not engage in interpreting China's threat to "pluck out the eyes" of nations that accused it of eroding Hong Kong's democracy and freedom of speech.

The Green Party has also unveiled a portfolio reshuffle, ahead of the official opening of Parliament this week.

Over the weekend, Asia Pacific leaders came together virtually for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), calling for free and predictable trade to help a global economy laid low by the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the 21 nations in the co-operation, who included US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping, also said they would not resort to protectionist policies.

New Zealand will also hold next year's APEC summit using virtual digital platforms.