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Disrupter Fast-track Bill Long Overdue

t’s time for a disrupter to get infrastructure and development projects moving, with significant benefits for New Zealand, says Straterra chief executive, Josie Vidal.

"We see the Fast-track Approvals Bill as the ticket to this and our submission supports its intent, with some fine tuning," Vidal says. "This bill is not pitting the environment against the economy. It is bringing balance to a regime that has been so skewed that getting projects up and running has been unnecessarily challenging.

"Years of stalling and delays in consenting projects and trying to work through increasingly complicated and sometimes irrational resource management rules have ground this country to a halt.

"The mining industry supports New Zealand’s high environmental standards and does not want to use this bill to undermine these. The bill contains responsible environmental checks and balances.

"Mining is capital-intensive and it takes a long time to get through the myriad of processes and government departments to physically mining and get a return on that very large investment. While it is appropriate there are checks and balances, it should not be taking 10 years, costing millions of dollars, and turning off investors. We fully support a one-stop shop approach to consenting to remedy this.

"A disrupter can address the litigious nature of the current processes and pursue instead a solutions-oriented approach to consenting significant projects. Time spent in the courts is costly and the cases brought against mining companies are sometimes frivolous or vexatious.

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"Ministers acknowledge the bill takes powers from the courts and hands them to ministers. The clear and evident problems with the status quo justify this, noting the checks and balances that the bill puts in place.

"The bill is not unusual in reserving final decision making to ministers and such powers are the norm in other areas of legislation impacting on the environment including the Crown Minerals Act, Conservation Act, and Overseas Investment Act.

"There has been much opposition to the bill, but there is also considerable support. Mischief is being made with unfounded claims about the removal of environmental protections.

"New Zealand has one of the most regulated mining industries in the world. Even without regulations, mining companies are bound by the requirements of their customers, investors, shareholders, and financiers to report on their environmental impacts (as well as social and governance under the banner of ESG). This extends well beyond the temporary life of the mine to managing full mine closure.

"No one plans to mine on New Zealand’s national parks or other protected areas of the conservation estate. We fully support the status quo which allows applications to be considered on a case-by-case basis on certain conservation land only. The conservation estate is one-third of New Zealand’s land and it makes sense to use some of it for farming, ski-fields, and mining, if those uses meet standards of custodianship for the land and its ecosystems. Using the land, in combination with active management of pests and predators, serves it better than leaving it unmanaged."

Straterra is the industry association representing New Zealand’s minerals and mining sector.

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