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New fast-tracking consenting regime good news for business says EMA

The EMA is broadly supportive of the government’s move to introduce a revised fast-tracking consenting regime for projects of national and regional significance but says the legislation highlights the need for a stable, efficient long-term consenting system.

EMA Head of Advocacy Alan McDonald says today’s announcement is an important first step to kick-start the need to address our long-standing infrastructure deficit that includes road, rail, port, airport, hospitals, schools, water and electricity networks.

“Our failure to build the infrastructure we need is hurting our economy and our social wellbeing. Our motorway networks are clogged, we don’t build enough houses, public transport is underwhelming, and our schools and hospitals are ageing and often overcrowded,” says McDonald.

“That is why we need to make it easier to build the essential infrastructure we need in this country. Whether it is roads, public transport, hospitals or schools, we need to get spades into the ground quicker and the fast-track regime will help us do that.

“I can understand why the Government reverted to the old RMA and introduced a new fast-track process. The recent reforms were complex and included many new terms that potentially would have been challenged in courts for years as their meanings were clarified. The current Resource Management Act has seen too many important projects delayed and stalled in a process that served nobody well,” says McDonald.

“But the work the EMA, Property Council, InfrastructureNZ, BusinessNZ and the Environmental Defence Society put together also proved the old RMA was not providing the environmental protection New Zealanders want. Fast track processes are not ideal in the long term. In the past, ministerial driven decisions have been challenged right through the courts system, or we’ve seen unintended consequences for critical industries that have taken years to resolve.

“What’s really needed for our environmental legislation and infrastructure development is far greater co-operation and agreement across all parties in Parliament so that we don’t keep chopping and changing standards, strategies and projects to the detriment of all involved. These are nation-building pieces of the legislative framework, and we must have broader consensus on how they work to give New Zealanders the infrastructure we need and the environmental protection we like.

“The cost of consenting infrastructure projects has increased by 70% since 2014, and the time it takes to get a consent has increased by as much as 150% over the same period. According to the Productivity Commission, we are spending $1.3 billion every year on consenting processes. Delays in consenting inevitably raise the final cost of projects when this is money that could be better spent in actually building things that contribute to the economy.”

McDonald says it is appropriate that the fast-tracking regime is only reserved for projects of national or regional strategic significance but Ministers making those decisions also need to ensure legitimate environmental concerns are also not being run over rough shod.

“Just as the business community has had issues with the inefficient application of the RMA and the delays it has caused, we also have to be mindful the pendulum does not go too far the other way to the detriment of the environment we all live and work in.

“These are the projects that will drive our economic recovery. Whether it is improved transport links or the ability to open a major new factory or development in the regions, this legislation will make consenting less time consuming and expensive.”

 

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