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Bill Would Create Large-scale Environmental Destruction

Forest & Bird told Parliament’s Environment Committee that the Fast-track Approvals Bill should be withdrawn, when the Society appeared before select committee members today.

“There are just too many problems with this piece of legislation,” says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Nicola Toki. “It’s ill-conceived, rushed, tramples over existing environmental protections, and will rubber stamp controversial and highly damaging projects.

"If it's not withdrawn, this will lead to protests and litigation the likes of which we have not seen for many, many years.

“New Zealand is a biodiversity hotspot, and our very national identity is tied to land and nature. We need to protect the homes of endangered creatures such as kiwi and the globally endangered Archey’s frog for generations to come,” says Ms Toki.

She says Forest & Bird understands the desire for faster consenting processes and supports process improvements – but these should not compromise the environmental outcomes provided for in existing legislation.

Ms Toki says Forest & Bird also recognises the importance of enabling development that will help New Zealand to achieve its emissions reduction targets, however the Bill as it is currently worded is only going to fast-track one thing – environmental destruction and further damage to the thousands of threatened species found here.

The Government has indicated that it is open to reconsidering parts of the Bill such as one of the most egregious sections that gives decision-making power over new developments to three ministers. Forest & Bird says that this does not go far enough.

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“Removing ministerial override by itself is meaningless. We need to keep protections for endangered native plants and animals, and ensure New Zealanders have the right to have a say on projects in their communities,” says Ms Toki.

Forest & Bird says fast-track provisions that were retained from the Natural and Built Environment Act 2023 should be used instead.

“This legislation doesn't provide certainty and it won't endure. To be enduring, resource management reform needs to have widespread public support. That’s not the case with this new proposed law. Even in the absence of a list of projects or any of the official advice on the risks of the Bill, there’s already been a remarkable backlash, with tens of thousands of New Zealanders submitting to Parliament against this Bill,” says Ms Toki.

“We can see from submissions how strongly New Zealanders feel that this proposed legislation undermines democracy, ignores science and established law, and doesn’t align with the care and protection that should be given to our natural environment.”

If the Bill proceeds without environmental protections being hard-wired into it, any fast-tracked project could be granted, regardless of the destruction it could cause. Instead of encouraging sustainable development that will provide a win/win/win for people, the environment, and the economy, the Bill will be a giant leap backwards for New Zealand.

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