10 Apr 2024

Ministers announce advisory group for fast-tracking projects

11:33 am on 10 April 2024
Shane Jones and Chris Bishop

Shane Jones and Chris Bishop announced the appointments today. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The government has confirmed the six people who will recommend developments and infrastructure for fast-tracking.

They include company director and lawyer David Tapsell, civil engineering executive Rosie Mercer, Sanford fishing executive Vaughan Wilkinson, infrastructure company director David Hunt, former forestry manager Murray Parrish, and urban planner Mark Davey.

The Fast Track Approvals Bill has been at select committee since after it was announced on 7 March, and would allow ministers to select projects to skip the usual consenting process.

Some projects will be added to the legislation by Regional Development Minister Shane Jones, Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop, and Transport Minister Simeon Brown, likely at the Committee of the Whole House stage between the second and third reading.

This would make them eligible for two options for fast-tracking.

One option - for projects listed under Schedule 2B of the bill - would see interested companies apply to the ministers above, who would then seek comment from certain affected groups before considering the project against eligibility criteria.

The projects would then go to an expert panel to set conditions and seek comment from the applicant and affected groups on these conditions before going to the ministers above for final approval. The ministers would also have the power to ask the expert panel to make the conditions more lenient.

The other option would skip the first step of application to ministers, with projects listed in Schedule 2A going directly to the expert panel.

The advisory group appointed today - not to be confused with the expert panel - will advise ministers on which projects to include in that even faster fast-tracking process. It's possible they will also suggest projects that need further work be included in Schedule 2B.

With support from the Ministry for the Environment and Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, they will work through to July on their recommendations.

The ministers will, however, have final decision-making powers over which projects are included in the legislation.

Bishop and Jones, who announced the group's appointed, said the members collectively brought many years of experience working on infrastructure and economic development projects, environment and conservation initiatives, including with local government and under Treaty of Waitangi arrangements.

"Advice from this highly experienced group adds another layer of expert analysis to the proposed fast-track process. It's great that these high-calibre Advisory Group members are on board to ensure the process is transparent, and to thoroughly evaluate the suitability of projects."

Submissions on the fast-track bill close on 19 April.

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