The Covid fast track consenting panel, set up by the Ardern Government under the Covid 19 Fast-Track Consenting Act, has approved the expansion of State Highway 1, which will see a third lane added in each direction between Papakura and Drury.
Greenpeace and Generation Zero - who submitted against the SH1 expansion - have labelled the move hypocritical, pointing out that the Ardern Government approved the road expansion in the final days of the COP26 international climate negotiations.
"During the final days of COP26, the Ardern Government fast-tracked the construction of bigger roads which we know will cause more climate pollution," says Greenpeace campaigner Niamh O’Flynn.
"This is yet another example of how the Ardern Government’s actions are completely inconsistent with their rhetoric and promises on the climate crisis."
Generation Zero spokesperson Adam Currie says that the motorway expansion fails to align with the Government’s alleged focus on decarbonising the transport sector.
"This decision to allow a third traffic lane on SH1 is gutting, will only increase emissions, and - through accelerating sprawl - will impact Indigenous biodiversity and degrade some of Aotearoa’s most important fertile soil," says Currie.
"This project includes some positive aspects such as improving walking and cycling infrastructure and enabling passenger rail electrification - but the big motorway expansion leaves a dirty aftertaste. Right now the Government is doing consultation around its Emissions Reduction Plan, which is an opportunity to decarbonise our transport system and transform how New Zealanders get to work, school and play. To get the transformational Emissions Reduction Plan and Budget 2022 that we need, we simply cannot afford to continue building and expanding motorways like this," says Currie.
Greenpeace has also submitted its opposition to a new hydrogen plant in Taranaki because its planned use would drive more climate pollution. The plant is also a fast-track project which is currently under consideration.
If approved, the hydrogen plant would be used to support the production of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, a key driver of intensive dairying which is Aotearoa’s biggest climate polluter.
"For New Zealand to be pulling its weight on climate change, the Ardern Government has to do more to reduce emissions from intensive dairying and that means cutting synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, not entertaining new schemes to keep producing more of it," says O’Flynn.
"The Ardern Government’s Covid Fast-Track Act looks to be turning into a fast-track to more climate pollution and dirtier rivers."