Good news for Aucklanders: six of the 11 infrastructure projects fast-tracked under a new law are set in the city of sails, creating more than 750 jobs.
The projects have been pushed through under a new law to help rebuild the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Environment Minister David Parker says.
"The specific projects are listed in the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track) Bill that will be introduced in the House later this week.
"Job rich infrastructure and development projects of different sizes and in different locations around New Zealand will be prioritised.
"Extraordinary times sometimes require extraordinary measures. However, positive environmental outcomes will not be sacrificed at the expense of speed."
The Northern Pathway project - the Harbour Bridge "Skypath" - is among the six, building a cycleway and walkway spanning Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland.
Parker said the project, which will hopefully see more commuters swapping their cars for bikes, will create 50 jobs in the area.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called it "welcome news" saying the projects will create hundreds of much-needed jobs, as well as boosting transport connections in the city.
"We welcome the Northern Pathway across the Harbour Bridge, so people can walk and cycle across the Harbour, that will be huge for the city.
"As the engine room of New Zealand's economy, accounting for 34 per cent of the country's population but creating more than 38 per cent of GDP, Auckland is well placed to assist in the infrastructure-led recovery from the Covid-19 recession."
The Unitec project, providing high density housing on the Auckland Unitec site, will create around 250 jobs, while 30 jobs will be created as Britomart station upgrades to ensure the City Rail Link project can operate at full capacity once services commence.
The 11 projects range from roads to cycleways, rail upgrades, water storage, and housing developments and have the potential to create more than 1250 jobs nationally.
EMA, a business service organisation aiming to help people and businesses grow, says the fast-tracking is "particularly welcome" for the Auckland region.
"Some of these projects have been on the books in Auckland and elsewhere for a number of years so finally getting them consented, especially on a fact-track, is a welcome development," said EMA's head of advocacy and strategy Alan McDonald.
"This is the Government using its powers in a way that clears regulatory hurdles and gets stuff done, just what we need at the moment."
Three further shovel-ready projects are expected to create jobs for out-of-work Aucklanders:
• The electrification of rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and the construction of three rail platforms. Aiming to extend Auckland metro services south to Pukekohe and provide South Aucklanders with greener ways to travel, the project is expected to create 85 jobs.
• Papakura to Drury SH1 roading upgrade to improve its capacity, as well as constructing new walking and cycling facilities to improve highway access and safety. Up to 350 jobs will be created.
• Papakāinga Network Development – the delivery of Papakainga across six sites including Auckland. Supporting the Government to provide up to 120 dwellings, it is being delivered by Māori developers with support from Te Puni Kōkiri and has the potential to expand the existing workforce.
But many of the projects given the green-light appear to be about creating short term jobs instead of taking steps to rebuild the economy, the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union says.
Spokesman Louis Houlbrooke said he didn't understand why the Resource Management Act should be "fast tracked" only for politically-selected projects.
"What needs 'fast-tracking' is RMA reform itself, so New Zealanders can invest and create jobs with projects that don't bleed taxpayers," he said.
"The cost of SkyPath has already blown out multiple times, to $200 for every household in the country.
"Giving this project an RMA exemption doesn't turn it into a good investment. Funding would be better spent on infrastructure that improves productivity for the many, not just a subset of Takapuna-based lycra enthusiasts."
The new Bill means projects will be consented and built quickly, by putting them through a "fast track consenting process" down three pathways.
Once the Bill passes these 11 projects, on the first pathway, will be sent directly to "Expert Consenting Panels", will have similar powers to consenting authorities under the RMA.
"While these projects are being advanced in time, environmental safeguards remain. Part 2 of the Resource Management Act including the recognition of matters of national importance, will continue to apply," Parker said.
"We are looking forward to ideas from a range of people and organisations including district and regional councils, iwi authorities, NGOs and the private sector."
Projects that qualify will be referred to panels for consideration through an Order in Council.
The third track allows KiwiRail and NZTA to undertake repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on existing infrastructure without needed a resource consent.
The fast track law is a short term intervention that will self-repeal in two years, he said.
11 initial fast-tracked projects named in the Bill are:
• Kaikohe water storage facility – to provide water for agricultural and horticultural use and drinking water in Kaikohe. This project is expected to provide 70 jobs.
• Unitec – Phase 1 – high density housing on the Unitec site in Auckland, 250 jobs.
• Te Pa Tahuna – Phase 1 – up to 180 residential units and retail space on an old school site in Queenstown - part of a wider development that aims to provide up to 300 high density dwellings. Up to 100 jobs.
• Papakāinga Network Development – the delivery of Papakainga across six sites; in Kaitaia, Pt Chevalier, Raglan, Waitara, Chatham Islands and Christchurch. This project will support the Government to provide up to 120 dwellings. It is being delivered by Māori developers with support from Te Puni Kōkiri. Will help retain and expand the existing workforce.
• Britomart East Upgrade – upgrades to Britomart station to ensure the City Rail Link project can operate at full capacity once services commence. 30 jobs.
• Papakura to Pukekohe electrification – electrification of rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and the construction of three rail platforms. This project is expected to create 85 jobs.
• Wellington Metro Upgrade programme – suite of smaller projects aimed at increasing the passenger and freight capacity of trains between Masterton, Levin and Wellington. Works will involve upgrading drainage, new tracks, upgrading stations, new storage yards, and the establishment and operation of a gravel extraction site. This project is expected to create 90 jobs.
• Picton ferry dock and terminal upgrade – The project will improve rail services by expanding the docks and upgrading the passenger terminal. This project is expected to create 200 jobs. KiwiRail notes that the design of the new terminal takes into account 100 years of projected sea level rise.
• Northern Pathway – a cycleway and walkway between Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland. Number of jobs expected to be 50.
• Papakura to Drury SH1 roading upgrade – Up to 350 jobs.
• Te Ara Tūpuna – a cycleway and walkway between Petone and Ngauranga in Wellington. This project will improve the safety and usability of an existing cycleway and aims to increase the number of people cycling for commuting, recreation and tourism.
This project is expected to create between 30 and 40 jobs and is an opportunity to strengthen existing sea walls and structures to make it more resilient to sea level rise and increased storm events.
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