Further to our updatethe Fast-track Approvals Bill was introduced into the House on the 7 March. As anticipated the Bill’s purpose focuses on ‘the delivery of infrastructure and development projects with significant regional or national benefits’.

The range of approvals under the one-stop shop approach is as expected.

The criteria for a project to use the new process emphasise the Government’s focus on economic benefits. Our initial impression is that they are very wide and will enable a wide range of projects to be eligible, including projects that are prohibited under the Resource Management Act 1991.

Projects are referred to expert panels, who make recommendations about the projects, including appropriate conditions (where necessary), within timeframes set by Ministers. This will be tight if there are a lot of projects, and the projects are complex – which we anticipate they will be.

Public participation is limited but there is room for hearings to be held. This could enable all the parties to work together.

The final decision to grant or decline the approvals and consents sits with the Ministers (Infrastructure, Regional Development and Transport and the Minister of Conservation if a Wildlife Act approval is needed). Ministers can also ask the panel to reconsider any recommendations, commission additional advice or seek further comments from affected parties. There are no timeframes on Ministerial decision making.

There is therefore a high degree of Ministerial involvement in decision making and a high likelihood of judicial review for the decisions that are made – both on the Bill and the decisions that come from the process.

Appeals within the process are limited to questions of law.

While the Bills did not contain the projects that will use the new streamlined process – the Bill provides two tracks -

  • Schedule 2A – effectively approved regionally and nationally significant projects subject to suitable conditions being established and
  • Schedule 2B – projects deemed to be regionally and nationally significant that will go through the Ministerial referral process but aren’t yet consent ready.

We’ll get to know more about the Schedule 2A projects – and by default the 2B projects – once an Independent Advisory Group has provided advice on the long list to Ministers. The projects will then be included in the Bill either through Supplementary Order Papers or a Ministry for the Environment Departmental report.

We’re preparing our draft submission focusing on the process and the key issues for local government. So far, we’re pleased to see some of our feedback already picked up - requirements for pre-consultation and cost recovery, and housing at a regionally or nationally significant scale. But the devil is of course in the detail. Some things to focus on include lapse dates, timeframes, supporting infrastructure requirements, prohibited activities and the implications for non-complying activities and the relationship to plan changes, and multiple consultation requirements. We are also interested in how councils can use the process to get critical infrastructure projects delivered well.

Our aim is to circulate our draft submission on our planning and policy discussion groups on or before the week commencing 26 March 2024.

Submissions close on 19 April.

Click here to view the full diagram.

Further information:

The SAR is now up on the Treasury webpage - Supplementary Analysis Report: Fast-track Approvals Bill | The Treasury New Zealand