New legislation intended to fast-track New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and boost employment growth came into force today.

The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 establishes new fast-track consenting and designation processes for infrastructure and development projects. It enables specific work on existing infrastructure to occur without the need for resource consent – while still maintaining environmental and Treaty safeguards.

From today, proposals can be submitted for consideration.

Fast-track consenting process

The fast-track process will be administered by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), with applications able to be made to the Minister for the Environment by public bodies as well as private organisations.

In deciding whether to accept proposals into the fast-track process, the Minister will consider a range of factors. These include potential economic, employment, social and cultural impacts and benefits, and whether the project would likely progress significantly faster by using the process.

If accepted into the process, the application will be referred to an Expert Consenting Panel, chaired by a current or retired Environment Court Judge. The Panel will be required to invite comment from parties including councils, iwi authorities, landowners and occupiers.

There is no requirement to hold a public hearing and no opportunity for involvement or submissions from the wider community or the general public. Panels will need to make a decision on an application within 45 to 70 days of receiving the application. Appeal rights will be limited to points of law, although judicial review will still be available.

The legislation also removes the requirement, in some circumstances, for Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) and KiwiRail to obtain resource consent to undertake certain repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on the State Highway and railway networks.

The existing Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) process remains as the main consenting pathway for all other projects outside of the fast-track process. The new Act also has a ‘sunset clause’, meaning it will be repealed two years from enactment.

The legislation lists an initial 16 projects across the country to go through the fast-track process, which between them are anticipated to create an estimated 1,700 jobs.

What this means for you

For further information, and to discuss what this fast-track process might mean for you and your projects, please get in touch with our planning team: