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EDS Highlights Reputational Risks Of Fast-track Inclusion

Now that the list of potential scheduled project applicants has been released, those entities will need to weigh up whether the reputational risks of entering the Fast-track Approvals process would be worth it. The Government has invited more than 200 parties to apply for inclusion in Schedules to the Fast-track Approvals Bill that would virtually guarantee them consent approval.

“Make no mistake: this proposed legislation, with its Ministerial overreach and capacity for environmental harm, is extremely radical and controversial,” said EDS CEO Gary Taylor.

“Any company or entity considering the scheduling route to consent will need to exercise extreme caution as its reputation could be at serious risk. The fast-track procedures are the antithesis of building social license and getting community support for development.

“Most New Zealand businesses seek to be good corporate citizens, making strong commitments to sustainable management and avoiding environmental harm. Engaging in a process that is designed to ride roughshod over environmental concerns flies in the face of such commitments.

“There is already existing fast-track law that is working well without the negative consequences implicit in this bill. Around 90 projects have been consented at an average processing time of around 90 days. They include housing, wind and solar farms, roads, and other public infrastructure.

“Our leading banks should also be asking whether they want to invest in projects that have avoided any substantive environmental assessment and therefore could be environmental disasters in the making. Banks have made meaningful commitments to sustainability and addressing climate change.

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“Finally, our exporters need to be thinking about compliance with our international commitments. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and EU-NZ and UK-NZ free trade agreements all contain very pertinent obligations to address climate change, protect the environment, allow civil society to have a say and more. Companies like Fonterra and seafood exporters in particular, need to be mindful of those commitments.

“My call to the recipients of Minister Bishop’s letter is to think carefully before you apply for inclusion in the bill’s schedules before the deadline of 3 May. I’ve no doubt Australian coalminers will be ‘in like Flynn’, but responsible domestic entities have good cause to pause – and to talk to their banks. There are important business and ethical issues at stake,” Mr Taylor concluded.

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