The Green Party has opposed the COVID-19 Recovery Fast-track Consenting Bill which shortcuts normal consenting processes under the Resource Management Act (RMA), reduces public participation and narrows environmental considerations.
Green Party Co-leader James Shaw said today:
“Although the bill was put forward with good intent, and the Greens have worked constructively throughout to improve it, in the end we could not support it. The bill aims to fast-track some large scale projects, but sacrifices public input, council decision making, and a thorough consideration of the environmental impacts.
“Public participation provides decision makers with more information and enables communities to participate in decisions which affect their neighbourhoods and places they care about. We didn’t feel this bill quite achieved that.
“The Greens have worked constructively to improve the bill at all stages – during the policy stages, its drafting and in parliament. We would like to thank Environment Minister David Parker for working with us in good faith to improve the bill, despite us ultimately deciding not to support it in its entirety.
“We are satisfied that with the Greens at the table, the bill is much more robust than it would have been. Improvements include prioritising good green projects, better checks and balances on the Environment Minister’s powers, stronger environmental and climate safeguards, more extensive stakeholder and iwi consultation, and stronger te Tiriti protections.
Key improvements to the RMA fast-track bill which the Greens helped achieve include:
- Stronger criteria for the Minister for the Environment to consider when deciding whether to approve a project for the fast-track. These have included whether the project improves environmental outcomes, minimises waste and contributes to New Zealand’s efforts to mitigate climate change and transition more quickly to a low emissions economy.
- A wider range of government agencies providing advice on whether projects meet the fast-track criteria.
- More scope for the Environment Minister to decline projects applying for fast-track status, meaning they would proceed through the usual RMA consent process.
- Enabling the Expert Consenting Panels to hold public hearings.
- Giving Expert Consenting Panels the ability to decline consent, if projects are inconsistent with national policy instruments.
- Stronger reference to national instruments.
- Stronger te Tiriti o Waitangi protections.
- Naming particular organisations in the legislation, including environmental NGOs such as EDS, Generation Zero and Forest and Bird, from whom feedback must be sought about each proposed project.
- Removal of the ability for Waka Kotahi/NZTA and other infrastructure agencies to clear indigenous vegetation in significant natural areas as part of their permitted activities.