20 Apr 2024

Firms invited to apply for fast-track consents include 'environmental destroyers' - Greenpeace

6:36 pm on 20 April 2024
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Fonterra is among the organisations shoulder-tapped for fast-track consents. (File photo) Photo: Photo / AFP

Environmentalists have slammed a list of organisations who have been invited to apply to the government's proposed fast track approvals scheme.

Campaigners are also sceptical of Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop's claims that he released the names of those companies "in the interests of transparency" following a series of Official Information Act requests for the list.

The government yesterday released the list, just hours before public submissions were due to close.

In a statement, Greenpeace said the list of companies includes what it calls "the most environmentally destructive industries in New Zealand".

They include "environmental destroyers" dairy giant Fonterra, commercial fishing company Talley's and Trans-Tasman Resources, which has been bidding to mine off the South Taranaki coast for years.

Meanwhile, the organiser of a coalition of community groups and environmentalists who oppose the fast-track bill said the list was "grossly cynical" and "nauseating".

Many of the companies on the list have had previous applications rejected, said Communities Against the Fast-Track (CAFT) co-ordinator Augusta Macassey-Pickard.

"Generally [that's been] on pretty solid grounds, and, in some cases, they've been through multiple hearings in the courts to reach an absolute decline, so to see those sorts of groups being invited to participate in this is... well, nauseating would be putting it mildly."

The Bill aims to speed up the approval of major projects such as highways and mines, by allowing Ministers to over-ride usual planning procedures.

'Only one set of these resources'

David Curtis, head of the New Zealand Planning Institute, said he is concerned the Bill would sidestep democratic process by allowing politicians, not experts, to make the final decisions.

"Ministers should be absolutely providing that clear picture as to what it is we see as the vision for New Zealand, Inc. and then letting experts determine if what is being proposed ties into that bigger picture."

But Curtis said experts are already in high demand and that could constrain a speedy process.

Curtis said NZPI's submission urges the government to consider the environment.

"We only have one set of these resources. We need to be considerate in how we use them to ensure that decisions made now do not come at a great cost to, potentially, current or future generations."

Curtis said there is also no reference to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Fight 'just beginning'

Some of CAFT's biggest members are Coromandel Watchdog of Hauraki, Kiwis Against Seabed Mining and Coal Action Network Aotearoa, as well as a range of individual grassroots community groups from around the motu.

Macassey-Pickard, who has campaigned against mining in the Coromandel for two decades, said she had been heartened by the "overwhelming response" from the public, adding it was "just the beginning" of a fight against the bill.

"I'm reading commentary and seeing activism from groups I've never even heard of. I think there's going to be an absolute raft of opposition to this from so many levels and so many sectors.

"We are talking about continuing to have those conversations with our politicians, we're going keep on calling out things like the minister pretending he's being transparent when in fact he was obeying the Ombudsman's requests.

"We're [also] going to keep really questioning the companies who are putting their hands up for these projects, and we'll encourage people who have shares and people who are engaged in those industries to have that conversation as well.

"Do they really want to be part of something which is effectively wrought upon the whole country?"

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