In a chilling letter sent to stakeholders yesterday, Hon Chris Bishop, Minister for Resource Management Reform, advised of the Government’s intention to establish a new fast-track consenting regime for local, regional or nationally significant infrastructure and development projects.
The ‘fast track’ Bill will be introduced into the House before 7 March 2024 and it’s shaping up to be the biggest assault on our natural world since Muldoon’s National Development Act in 1981.
The new stand-alone law will enable Ministers to approve projects that are locally, regionally or nationally significant – so basically anything. ‘Consenting’ Panels will have limited ability to decline projects, reducing their input to a rubber-stamping, condition-setting, exercise.
The new law will operate separately from the Resource Management Act and create a one-stop-shop for approvals under other unnamed legislation too, including potentially the Conservation Act.
“Let’s not sugar coat this,” said Gary Taylor, EDS CEO.
“This is a war on our natural world. It has the potential for environmentally destructive projects to proceed at haste, with minimal environmental assessment, transparency and public involvement.
“We haven’t had Ministerial decision-making on individual projects in this country in modern times. There are good constitutional reasons for that – granting regulatory approvals should not be used as a way to raise political capital or engage in pork-barrel politics.
“We cannot have law that enables private developers to lobby Ministers for approvals, especially when everything seems to be on the table, including coal and gold mining (deep sea and in the Conservation estate), open ocean aquaculture, large scale wind projects, industrial solar farms, housing developments, infrastructure and just about anything you can think of.
“And to cap it off, the Bill will likely contain a list of projects that will be first to have their approvals granted. This is redolent of the bespoke legislation that authorised the Clyde Dam before outrage led to the constitutional reforms of the 1980s. It’s a return to the use of unbridled executive power we thought we’d left behind.
“All New Zealanders should be concerned because this could affect their backyard, their favourite recreational spot or beloved beach, river or mountain.
“EDS remains very willing to engage with Ministers in the development of this Bill which will need significant changes to make it acceptable. Fast-track is not a bad thing but this proposal goes way too far. There is a point where we will stand our ground,” concluded Mr Taylor.