Willie Jackson says Government's new fast-track bill will lead to corruption

  • 08/03/2024

Labour MP Willie Jackson is warning the Government's new fast-track bill will lead to corruption as it gives "extraordinary powers" to ministers.

It's the last day for the Coalition Government to complete its 100-day plan with the Prime Minister promising all 49 actions would be ticked off. However, one of these, the promise to repeal the Resource Management Act replacements, also included s new policy.

The Government announced on Thursday a new one-stop-shop fast-track consenting regime for regional and national projects of significance.

It plans to make it easier to build infrastructure and major projects needed to get the country moving again.

The Fast Track Approvals Bill has been approved by Cabinet and will receive its first reading under urgency on Thursday afternoon, before being sent to the Environment Committee for public submissions.

Appearing on AM's political panel on Friday alongside National Minister Paul Goldsmith, Jackson boldly claimed the bill would lead to corruption.

"They are giving extraordinary powers to ministers," he told co-host Melissa Chan-Green. "We had the process before where you'd go to a specialist team to make judgements in terms consents."

"I mean would you trust Shane Jones, Paul Goldsmith, Chris Bishop? Would you trust these guys to make balanced judgements?"

"We're saying they are in the hands of donors."

Goldsmith hit back at Jackson's claims saying he is "well known for being fairly loose with his talk".

He pointed to the "huge transformation" the Waikato Expressway had by connecting the Waikato to Cambridge. He said the country could unlock so much in Northland if we connected Whangārei to Tauranga with a decent motorway.

"We've got to get this stuff done. That's why the fast-track legislation is about getting a pipeline of work all lined up so you can get international people coming in, building it, getting economies of scale that we need to get things done," Goldsmith said. 

"We're not here to muck around."

The Fast Track Approvals Bill is based on the previous RMA fast track regime developed by the previous Labour Government.

There are two paths under the new system. One allows the ministers to receive an application for a project, get thoughts on it from the likes of iwi and councils, consider if it's worthy of being fast-tracked and then send it off to an expert panel.   

The second will see an advisory group take a look at nominated projects and recommend to ministers which projects should be considered. Cabinet will have the final say, though not all projects will go straight to the expert panel.   

This expert panel then has six months to consult with certain groups and put conditions on the project, potentially including how to deal with environmental impacts. Then it goes back to the ministers for the final greenlight.  If the ministers think the conditions are too onerous, they can send it back to the panel.   

The new regime would allow the fast-tracking of resource consents, marine consents, land access arrangements, applications for archaeological authority, concessions and other permissions under the Conservation Act 1987 and Reserves Act 1977, approvals under the Wildlife Act 1953 and aquaculture decisions under the Fisheries Act 1996.