Cabinet has approved the fast tracking of large shovel ready projects, largely bypassing the Resource Management Act.
The announcement this morning, from Environment Minister David Parker, comes as the government continues to identify projects which could begin sooner with a large injection of public money.
The aim is to boost the economy as it enters a sharp downturn brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new act, due to be passed in June, would take away the ability of the public and councils to have an input in to whether projects proceed and instead hand this power to small panels of experts, chaired by an Environment Court judge. But this would only be for a period of two years.
Parker said the sorts of projects that would benefit from quicker consenting included roading, walking and cycling, rail, housing, sediment removal, new wetland construction, flood management works, and projects to prevent landfill erosion.
Parker said projects that include transport, environmental benefits, and housing will be prioritised under the plan.
He said the changes were approved last week and new legislation is expected to passed in June.
"We are acting quickly to get the economy moving again and our people working. Part 2 of the RMA will still be applied. Projects are being advanced in time, but environmental safeguards remain," Parker said.
"The consenting and approval processes that are used in normal circumstances don't provide the speed and certainty we need now in response to the economic fallout from Covid-19. The new processes will get projects started sooner and people into jobs faster.
"Investment in infrastructure is central to the government's economic plan to keep New Zealanders in jobs. We have already signalled major projects as part of the $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade project.
Parker said ideas from district and regional councils, as well as NGOs and the private sector, will be among those considered.
"Job-rich projects like core infrastructure, housing, and environmental restoration are crucial to the government's plan to stimulate the economy and help us recover from the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
Environmental Defence Society chairman and executive director Gary Taylor said important environmental safeguards remain under the plan.
"All of the environmental bottom lines that are either set out explicitly or are implicit in Part 2 of the Resource Management Act, will still apply."
National said the proposed RMA reforms should be made permanent.
Spokesperson for RMA reform, Judith Collins, said the RMA is past its used by date and the fast tracking should extend beyond the two years.
She said National needs to see the detail of the latest changes, but generally speaking, it would support them.