Fast Track Approvals Bill

Posted March 15, 2024

Fast-Track Approvals Bill

The Fast-Track Approvals Bill was introduced on 7 March and will go to the Select Committee for public submission in the near future.  

The Fast-Track Approvals Bill is aimed at expediting infrastructure and development projects deemed regionally or nationally significant, by simplifying the regulatory processes and accelerating the approvals process. Projects will either be listed in the Bill or referred to an expert panel by Ministers and those Ministers will make decisions on projects, after recommendations by an expert panel (similar to the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 that was repealed on 8 July 2023).

Key elements of the Bill

  • Streamlined Approval Processes: The Bill proposes to establish a new consenting pathway for certain projects, allowing them to bypass the traditional resource consent process.
  • One-stop-shop: A single process will be used to address resource consents under the Resource Management Act 1991, s61 land access arrangements under the Crown Minerals Act 1991, aquaculture decisions under the Fisheries Act 1996, applications for archaeological authority under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 and concessions under the Conservation Act 1987 and Reserves Act 1977. Authorisations under the Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012, Wildlife Act 1953, Freshwater Fisheries Regulations 1983, and Public Works Act 1981 will also be covered.
  • Joint Ministers: The Bill empowers the Ministers of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Conservation to make decisions with broad discretion. When an applicant submits a proposal for consideration under the Bill, a referral process will be undertaken, with Ministers having the power to decide if the proposal qualifies for Fast-Track approval. Any projects listed in the Bill schedule will also automatically qualify (The process to populate this list is to be announced soon).
  • Expert Panels: If a proposal is approved for the Fast Track process, the expert panel will complete a comprehensive assessment of the environmental effects for the proposal within 25 working days (this time frame can be extended if the scale or nature of the proposal requires it).  The applicant is expected to provide comprehensive information to inform this process. A recommendation on whether to approve or decline an application will be provided to the Ministers following this process. 
  • Decision Making: Ministers will retain the power to deviate from expert panel recommendations, having the final decision on whether to approve an application.
  • Hierarchy: The process will have supremacy over Council plans and policies; resulting in Ministers having the power to approve activities that many be prohibited in District or Regional Plans. 
  • Community Participation: Applicants will be required to consult with local authorities and relevant iwi, hapÅ«, and Treaty settlement entities before lodging an application. However, participation in the decision process will be limited to identified groups at the referral and recommendation stage. Local authorities and iwi authorities will be consulted at both stages and the recommendation process will extend consultation to landowners, occupiers and those adjacent to a project. The Director General of Conservation, requiring authorities and other persons invited by the panel will also be invited to comment on a proposal at the recommendation stage. Hearings are not anticipated, and appeals will be limited to points of law to the High Court.

Next Steps

The Bill is now proceeding through the select committee process. Those who wish to submit on the Bill must do so by 19 April 2024. The Select Committee report is due on 7 September 2024.

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