Notoriously slow road projects may move to fast lane under new Covid-19 economic plan

Source: 1News

Large-scale projects will soon be able to start sooner in New Zealand thanks to a change by the Government designed to help combat the stalling of the nation’s economy due to Covid-19.

The Government announced this morning a major element of its Covid-19 rebuild plan is a law change that will fast track eligible development and infrastructure projects under the Resource Management Act.

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.

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

“We went hard and early to beat the virus and now we’re doing the same to get the economy moving too.

“The success of our health response gives us a head start on the world to get our economy moving again and this fast-tracking process will allow our economic recovery to accelerate.”

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

Mr Parker said the newly introduced process is designed as a short-term intervention to help with economic recovery from Covid-19 and the legislation will be repealed in two years.

“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.

“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.”

Mr Parker added 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 while 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,” he said.

A number of “shovel-ready” projects identified by the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group are likely to be accelerated under the fast-track consenting process as well. These are “ready to go” developments which can start once the construction industry returns to normal.

Despite the changes, existing Treaty of Waitangi settlements will be upheld as will sustainable management and existing RMA national direction.