3 Mar 2023

ACT proposes 'special economic zone' to speed up East Coast flood recovery

4:46 pm on 3 March 2023
ACT leader David Seymour giving a speech in Auckland

Act Party leader David Seymour wants a 'special economic zone' set up for Hawke's Bay and Tai Rāwhiti to help them rebuild. Photo: RNZ / Mohammad Alafeshat

The Act Party has announced a bundle of policies it says will help flood-affected regions bounce back faster.

Leader David Seymour is proposing regulatory barriers be slashed to speed up the recovery from January's storm and Cyclone Gabrielle.

His party wants a 'special economic zone' set up for Hawke's Bay and Tai Rāwhiti to exempt these regions from 'red tape' which Act says slow progress.

"This policy has history in New Zealand, in the wake of both the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, as well as the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake, Parliament passed legislation which allowed ministers to override legislation for the purpose of the recovery."

Seymour said Cyclone Gabrielle met the threshold for adopting this approach again and pitched a swathe of policies to speed up the rebuild on the East Coast.

These include making it easier to access finance with a wider exemption from the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act and passing special legislation to remove RMA barriers to rebuilding and repairing.

Act also wants it easier for migrants to get visas if they are seeking work in the zone, a Materials Equivalence Register, a regional exemption from Fair Pay Agreements, streamlined foreign investment and introducing private insurance as an alternative to council consenting processes.

Seymour wanted these policies for the whole country but said the East Coast needed them now to recover from the floods as quickly as possible.

"People have had their lives turned upside down in the floods, the same old one-size-fits-all rules and regulations aren't going to work," he said.

"Declaring a Special Economic Zone means allows people to access finance, bypass red tape and ensure they can work within their means to do what they need to do to recover."

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