Government fast-tracking RMA procedures, green concerns

The Government is changing the law to enable the fast-tracking of Resource Management Act procedures

Beehive:  Fast-track consenting to get shovel-ready projects moving

The Government has announced a major element of its COVID-19 rebuild plan with a law change that will fast track eligible development and infrastructure projects under the Resource Management Act to help get New Zealand moving again.

Environment Minister David Parker said the sorts of projects that would benefit from quicker consenting included roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal from silted rivers and estuaries, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent landfill erosion.

The changes were approved by Cabinet last week and new legislation is expected to be passed in June.

“We are acting quickly to get the economy moving again and our people working. Part 2 of the RMA will still be applied. Projects are being advanced in time, but environmental safeguards remain,” David Parker said.

If the process can be sped up like this without compromising on environmental safeguards why couldn’t something like this have been done years ago?

“The consenting and approval processes that are used in normal circumstances don’t provide the speed and certainty we need now in response to the economic fallout from COVID-19. The new processes will get projects started sooner and people into jobs faster.

“Investment in infrastructure is central to the Government’s economic plan to keep New Zealanders in jobs. We have already signalled major projects as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade project.

“Ideas from district and regional councils as well as NGOs and the private sector will be considered.

“Job-rich projects like core infrastructure, housing, and environmental restoration are crucial to the Government’s plan to stimulate the economy and help us recover from the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some large-scale government-led projects, including those in the NZTA’s Land Transport Programme, will be named in the legislation to go through the fast-track consent process. Some works by government agencies will be able to start “as of right”.

“Projects that help alleviate housing challenges, encourage active transport and enhance the environment are prioritised under the proposal,” David Parker said.

I wonder if this will be a temporary fast tracking or a permanent reform.

RNZ: Government looks to fast-track infrastructure projects after lockdown

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said it was important that those projects get back under way as soon as possible because of the wider impact on the nation.

“You’ve got 300,000 Kiwis approaching a level of joblessness that no one of my generation ever saw – and I was a child of Rogernomics.

“We have got to be prepared to follow basically the old saying of Machiavelli … which is never squander a good crisis to address issues that ordinarily you wouldn’t do.

“As I’ve said in the past, needs must where the devil drives.”

Mark Binns is the chair of the infrastructure industry reference group leading the project, and said creating jobs was one of the key focuses of the group.

“What we’re looking to do is obviously support New Zealanders in jobs and support key strategic disciplines in horizontal and vertical building around the country, so we’re looking right around the country in all the regions as to where we can help and we will have a list with the ministers sometime in early May.”

Construction businesses endorsed the move, with Fulton Hogan managing director Cos Bruyn saying the announcement gave him confidence – but it was still a case of wait and see.

While Greens have been suggesting that projects that help the climate and the environment should be given priority they are wary of speeding up processes.

RNZ:  Greens raise concerns about planned law to fast-track resource consents

The new legislation, due to be passed in June, would take away the ability of the public and councils to have input into whether projects proceed and instead hand this power to a small panels of experts, chaired by an Environment Court judge.

Decisions would be issued within 25 working days and, while existing Treaty of Waitangi settlements would be upheld, appeal rights would be limited to points of law and judicial review.

Greens co-leader Marama Davidson said her party objected to removing public consultation, even for a limited time.

“This is why I want to hear from the public, and iwi and hapū, with concerns to the select committee process … we will be listening and taking on those concerns to get further improvements to this bill.”

That sounds like it could take a lot longer than the Government would like, but the the Greens may be impotent on this.

Labour, New Zealand First, National and ACT are all agreed on something – the RMA is not doing its job.

National’s spokesperson for RMA reform, Judith Collins, said it was about time changes were made and her party would likely consider the changes “favourably” once it had a chance to see the details.

“It does seem to me to be a recognition the RMA is not fit for purpose for doing almost anything.”

Mike Smith from the National Iwi Chairs Forum is leading their work on the matter – he will be meeting with ministers about it later today.

He said they’re glad to see environmental initiatives are now more front and centre and that land returned via treaty settlements will be protected from development.

The legislation risks poor decision making, Jen Miller of Forest and Bird told Morning Report.

There is a lack of clarity and communication about what the legislation will mean for the environment, she said.

She isn’t confident that the decision-making process will factor in a large project’s long term environmental effects.

Under the RMA there’s been ongoing destruction of the environment, she said.

“Climate disruption will cause huge impacts on people and our environment.

“In our view, projects need to provide help genuinely provide opportunities for recovery for people and the planet.”

That has conflicted with growth and ‘progress’, and is now going to come up against the rush to reinvigorate business and the economy after the Covid shock.

 

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16 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  5th May 2020

    ‘If the process can be sped up like this without compromising on environmental safeguards why couldn’t something like this have been done years ago?

    Perhaps you should direct that question to the National led Govt members that had 9 years to address the issue.

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  5th May 2020

    It reads as though the bureaucracy is merely giving itself a fast track and leaving individuals still stuck in its swamp. As usual.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  5th May 2020

      still not happy then!

      Do you actually have any suggestions of what could work?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  5th May 2020

        Did that long ago as you know, B. Just reinvent property rights.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  5th May 2020

          Plenty of land has owner instituted covenants on what can be built where. Councils a re just a community version of that.
          The richer the country the more the local controls …. now Lagos in Nigeria , Manila in Philippines now theres a world where property rights slums are widespread

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  5th May 2020

            Crap.

            Reply
            • Fight4nz

               /  5th May 2020

              “The flight of residents of Illinois and California to freer states mirrors our previous and coming outflow to Australia.”

              The vast majority of NZers going to Austalia left for better income and conditions of employment, an advantage Australia has with having retained a strong union presence to ensure equitable wage negotiations.
              Doesn’t that fly in the face of what you define as “freedom”?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th May 2020

              The advantage Australia has is a better per capita GDP, no RMA so vastly cheaper housing and currently less loony lockdown.

            • Duker

               /  5th May 2020

              Every Country has an RMA…. it had been called ‘Town Planning’

              In Sydney and other places they are called DA’s (development applications) and then when approved like here you go for the building and construction approvals
              https://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/development/development-applications

              ‘To make a determination on a development application (DA) the City of Sydney takes into account such matters as:

              relevant planning controls and conditions
              the likely impacts of the development
              the suitability of the site
              any submissions
              the public interest.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th May 2020

              Of course Sydney does have the worst house prices.

          • Fight4nz

             /  5th May 2020

            Correct.

            Heads up for you. PD will be along shortly with his pearl of wisdom that Lagos, Manila, Rio de Janeiro, etc are great examples of places where the Govt hasn’t robbed owners for the ‘greater good’. Something we can aspire to.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  5th May 2020

              The flight of residents of Illinois and California to freer states mirrors our previous and coming outflow to Australia.

            • Duker

               /  5th May 2020

              And the poorest states are the places where Trump is most popular…. they would love to have the wealth and GDP of places like New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon Colorado
              As for the population drop in California , well 25% of Texas has seen its population decline too…now the oil industry has bust see that increase

    • Yes, it seems to favour big business and bureaucracy.

      I have some land that was rezoned in a new council district plan 18 months ago but that has been bogged down in a consent appeal process that hasn’t even made it into the Environment Court yet (it has been delayed now by Covid). A small number of people opposing any building they can see is stuffing around over a thousand land owners. But developers with a lot of money and time seem to be able to still do things they want to do.

      Reply
  3. David

     /  5th May 2020

    Shame it only applies to the government and their close friends, they should do it for all housing developments given they are such a job rich activity..and we need lots of houses built so the prices dont continue rising.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  5th May 2020

      No, they should do it for everything and everyone. Same rules for all.

      Reply

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