Business / Commercial

COVID-19 Recovery Fast-Track Act Takes Effect

The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 (Act) came into effect on 9 July. It is intended to accelerate the beginning of work on a range of projects and support certainty of ongoing employment and investment across New Zealand.

Download here for a copy of the Act

What it does

The Act provides an expedited resource consenting and designation processes for eligible projects. Decisions under the Act are made by an expert consenting panel, rather than by local authorities. The expert panels will be convened by a current or former Environment Judge and will receive administrative support from the Environmental Protection Agency. Seventeen projects have been listed in the Act as eligible for the fast-track process. The Minister for the Environment (and the Minister of Conservation, if any part of the project would occur in the coastal marine area) has a broad discretion to refer further projects or parts of projects to the process via Order in Council. Before doing so, the Minister must invite comments from on the proposed project from relevant local authorities and Ministers.

Applications

Applications to the expert panel for eligible projects must meet specified information requirements, including specific Treaty settlement matters. If an application meets the information requirements, the expert panel must within 5 working days invite comments from specified people and groups, which must then be provided within a further 10 working days. This process does not amount to notification and does not give any right to be heard, although the expert panel may in its discretion decide to hold a hearing. The expert panel has 25 working days to determine the application, although this may be extended by up to 25 working days if the nature and scale of the application requires, or varied in the order referring the project. The expert panel may only decline the projects listed in the Act in limited circumstances. Standard RMA decision making provisions apply to projects that are subsequently referred to the process, although there is an additional obligation to act in a manner that is consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and Treaty settlements.

Appeals

Appeals to the High Court are available to people specified in the Act and limited to questions of law. Judicial review remains available but must be filed at the same time as any appeal. Further appeals are available to the Court of Appeal, with the decision of that court being final.

Other powers

The Act also permits Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and KiwiRail Holdings Limited to carry out small-scale repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on their existing infrastructure within the road and rail corridor without a resource consent. Detailed performance requirements are specified in the Act for such activities. In addition, government agencies Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and local authorities, are enabled to access these provisions if confirmed through an Order in Council.

Lifespan

A ‘sunset clause’ is included such that the Act will automatically be repealed two years from enactment. 

Please contact one of our experts if you have any queries in relation to this Act.

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