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Fast-track Bill Must Protect Nature

Without change, the RMA fast-track bill will sacrifice environmental protection to speed up projects which may not even help with the economic recovery, Forest & Bird told the Environment Select Committee today.

However, the organisation says it would not be difficult to fix the bill so it achieves its purpose of protecting both the environment and people’s livelihoods.

But without these changes, the legislation could do the exact opposite.

“While Forest & Bird doesn’t oppose the fast-track bill in principle, our support depends on it being amended so only projects without significant environmental effects are eligible for fast-tracking,” says Forest & Bird General Counsel Peter Anderson. 

“The way the bill is currently drafted means the Minister wouldn't even need to consider the environment when putting forwards projects to the expert panel for consenting,” says Mr Anderson.

“The expert panel will be working with limited information, and only token public participation. This would be less of a concern to us if projects had to meet a reasonable environmental standard before they reach the panel. 

“However, the Minister’s criteria for referral are effectively unfettered, so projects could be approved that have minimal benefit in terms of economic recovery and are also very environmentally damaging,” says Mr Anderson.

“New Zealand needs an intelligent recovery for both people and planet, and with some changes Forest & Bird thinks this bill could help achieve that vision”.

Forest & Bird says the changes needed to fix the bill are not huge, and would allow most of the 11 projects currently named in the bill to proceed with fast tracking.

In their submission, the organisation says the select committee members need to:

  • strengthen the criteria so that 
    • only projects that can demonstrate a meaningful contribution to recovery will be considered
    • limit the matters that can be considered to ones that
      • do not have significant adverse effects; and/or
      • are not non-complying or prohibited;
  • require a judge on the panel;
  • require that decisions promote sustainable management.

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