15 Jun 2020

Government reveals bill fast-tracking infrastructure projects

5:05 pm on 15 June 2020

The government has revealed a bill it says would fast-track 11 named infrastructure projects providing 1250-plus jobs for projects in housing, environment and transport.

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Cabinet approved the fast-tracking of such projects early last month.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government's focus remains on responding and recovering from Covid-19, after the move to alert level 1 at midnight on Tuesday morning.

Today was also the 24th day of no new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand.

"Our lockdown was stringent but short and we now enjoy more freedom than many others," Ardern said.

She said the lockdown was followed by a period where people spent more than had been expected, but the government must remain focused on economic recovery.

Environment Minister David Parker noted that alongside the 11 projects named in the bill, further secondary projects could apply to also be fast-tracked under the bill.

"The specific projects are listed in the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track) Bill that will be introduced In the House later this week. The Bill also opens the way for other projects to be fast tracked to help deliver faster economic growth and more jobs as soon as possible," Parker said.

The 11 initial fast-tracked projects named in the Bill are:

  • 1) Kaikohe water storage facility - to provide water for agricultural and horticultural use and drinking water in Kaikohe. This project is expected to provide 70 jobs.
  • 2) Unitec - Phase 1 - high density housing on the Unitec site in Auckland; 250 jobs.
  • 3) Te Pa Tahuna - Phase 1 - up to 180 residential units and retail space on an old school site in Queenstown - part of a wider development that aims to provide up to 300 high density dwellings; up to 100 jobs.
  • 4) Papakāinga Network Development - the delivery of Papakainga across six sites; in Kaitaia, Pt Chevalier, Raglan, Waitara, Chatham Islands and Christchurch. This project will support the Government to provide up to 120 dwellings. It is being delivered by Māori developers with support from Te Puni Kōkiri. Will help retain and expand the existing workforce.
  • 5) Britomart East Upgrade - upgrades to Britomart station to ensure the City Rail Link project can operate at full capacity once services commence; 30 jobs.
  • 6) Papakura to Pukekohe electrification - electrification of rail from Papakura to Pukekohe and the construction of three rail platforms. This project aims to extend Auckland metro services south to Pukekohe providing South Auckland with increased lower emissions transport choice; 85 jobs.
  • 7) Wellington Metro Upgrade programme - suite of smaller projects aimed at increasing the passenger and freight capacity of trains between Masterton, Levin and Wellington. Works will involve upgrading drainage, new tracks, upgrading stations, new storage yards, and the establishment and operation of a gravel extraction site; 90 jobs.
  • 8) Picton Ferry Dock and Terminal upgrade - The project will improve rail services by expanding the docks and upgrading the passenger terminal; 200 jobs. KiwiRail notes that the design of the new terminal takes into account 100 years of projected sea level rise.
  • 9) Northern Pathway - a cycleway and walkway between Westhaven and Akoranga in Auckland. This project aims to create a safe and useable active transport corridor for the North Shore and aims to increase the number of people cycling for commuting and recreation; 50 jobs.
  • 10) Papakura to Drury SH1 roading upgrade - upgrades to SH1 to improve its capacity, as well as constructing new walking and cycling facilities to improve highway access and safety. This project aims to respond to population growth and provide transport options for people in South Auckland; up to 350 jobs.
  • 11) Te Ara Tūpuna - a cycleway and walkway between Petone and Ngauranga in Wellington; between 30 and 40 jobs. This project will improve the safety and usability of an existing cycleway and aims to increase the number of people cycling for commuting, recreation and tourism. It is an opportunity to strengthen existing sea walls and structures to make it more resilient to sea level rise and increased storm events.

- NZ Government

The new fast track process would see resource consents processed in to 70 working days, instead of four to six months, Parker said.

The New Zealand Transport Agency and KiwiRail would also be able to undertake repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on existing infrastructure, without requiring resource consent.

Job-rich infrastructure would be included, he said, the legislation would self-repeal after two years, and it was not the same as a review of the RMA.

"Most resource consents affect both public and private interests, and public and private people in New Zealand expect to be able to be involved in the process including turning up to a hearing.

"What we're doing here is requiring things to be dealt with on the papers and we're also taking away the rights of individuals to submit and leaving those submissions rights in representative groups to submit on their behalf, and we wouldn't want to do that forever."

Environment Minister David Parker at a press conference announcing the Government's reforms to clean up our 
waterways, Beehive Theatrette, Wellington.

Photo: Pool / Stuff / Kevin Stent

Once the bill was passed, the projects would be referred directly to Expert Consenting Panels that could set conditions. The panels would have similar powers to authorities under the RMA.

He said the long list of infrastructure projects was 1800 long, and not all were costed, and the remaining projects were being assessed by the Environment Minister before going before a consenting panel.

Parker said the Infrastructure Commission was also involved in assessing the projects being considered under the secondary track.

He also said the environment would not be sacrificed at the expense of speed.

"While these projects are being advanced in time, environmental safeguards remain," he said.

Part 2 of the Resource Management Act would continue to apply, as well as the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and Treaty Settlement obligations.

The bill is set to be introduced in the House later this week.

Ardern leaves future Cabinet options open after Labour list release

Today's briefing comes after Labour released its party list, with infectious diseases specialist Dr Ayesha Verrall taking the number-18 spot.

There has been speculation that Dr Verrall would take a position as Health Minister under a future Cabinet, with the incumbent David Clark having been demoted on the Cabinet list after it emerged he breached lockdown restrictions.

At the post-Cabinet briefing today, Ardern said decisions about future Cabinet positions were yet to be made, and the new list reflected the strength of the Labour Party.

She said she was proud the list was likely to mean 50 percent of Labour's caucus would be women.

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