Eleven road, rail and housing projects that will be named in short-term legislation to fast-track consenting processes are just the beginning with a substantial number expected during the next two years.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Environment Minister David Parker said legislation will be tabled in Parliament this week to speed up the consenting process to keep jobs and build infrastructure as part of the economic response to the covid-19 pandemic.
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The bill will specifically name 11 projects to bypass notified consenting processes and instead go through expert panels, which will set conditions on work before it can start.
A second track will then apply to future projects from the public and private sectors. Applicants will need to provide information to the environment minister on how their projects qualify before being referred to a panel. The New Zealand Transport Agency and KiwiRail will also be able to undertake repair, maintenance and minor upgrades on existing road and rail infrastructure as a permitted activity.
Parker said he expects a significant number of projects to go through the fast-track process in the two years before the law self-repeals, although he declined to put a number on it.
"It relies upon people coming to us, showing that they're job rich, that they're ready to go, that they've got the funding, and going through this short track process will get actually people employed," Parker said at the weekly post-Cabinet press conference.
"If they haven't got the funding or it's not going to be any faster than the RMA process, then we wouldn't put it through this process."
The first 11 projects are expected to generate 1,250-plus jobs, the biggest of which is the Papakura-to-Drury state highway 1 upgrade with up to 350 jobs.
Parker said the panels will be adequately resourced for the work and while he doesn't expect the need for 10 panels, there will be more than one.
The first tranche of projects came from government agencies, with ministers still working through the 1,800 projects submitted by the Mark Binns-led Infrastructure Industry Reference Group.
Ardern said ministers are working through that list, which Cabinet received last month.
The truncated process will reduce the consenting time to between 45 and 70 working days, rather than the four to six months currently. Parker said that will mean some transport projects will be able to start up to two years earlier.
Parker said the fast-track process is separate to the wider review of the Resource Management Act. He expects to release the RMA review before the election on Sept. 19.
Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope welcomed the fast-track legislation and reiterated his complaint that the RMA is no longer fit for purpose.
"That is why we are supportive of the act being properly reformed so that businesses can get consents for important development to occur much more quickly than in the past, and provide a platform for high-quality development in the future," Hope said in a statement.