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The New Zealand Initiative Supports Fast-Track Approvals Bill With Suggested Improvements

The New Zealand Initiative welcomes the government's introduction of the Fast-Track Approvals Bill to streamline consenting for infrastructure and development projects. However, the Initiative recommends several changes to improve the Bill and mitigate potential downsides.

In a new policy point document released today, Senior Fellow Nick Clark outlines the key features of the Bill and responds to criticisms around environmental impacts, Treaty of Waitangi considerations, and the role of Ministers as final decision-makers on referred projects.

“The current consenting processes under the Resource Management Act and other legislation are too slow and costly, delaying important projects and infrastructure New Zealand desperately needs,” says Clark. “The Fast-Track Approvals Bill aims to address this by establishing a one-stop shop process with statutory timeframes for decisions.”

The Initiative supports the Bill's intent and many of its provisions. However, Clark suggests several potential improvements, including:

  • Eligibility criteria for projects should include economic efficiency, with cost benefit analysis used to help prioritise projects.
  • Expert panels should include expertise on economic analysis.
  • Final decision approval, including the ability to apply conditions, should either be given to the expert panel rather than Ministers, or if Ministers remain decision-makers, disclosure requirements be included covering reasons for declining expert panel recommendations, applicants’ meetings with Ministers and any political donations applicants make.
  • Include the Minister for the Environment in the decision-making process to ensure environmental considerations are given sufficient weight.
  • A sunset clause to make fast-tracking temporary while wider substantial RMA reform (and reviews of other conservation-related legislation) is undertaken.
  • The compensation payments under the Public Works Act should be increased to incentivise early agreement with landowners.
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“With these adjustments, the Fast-Track Approvals Bill could achieve its aim of accelerating much-needed development in a more robust and balanced way,” says Clark. “We encourage the government to consider these changes as the Bill goes through the select committee process.”

The Initiative's policy point,

Fast-Track Approvals Bill

, is available from The New Zealand Initiative website



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