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GWRC flags risks in fast track bill

Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] says the government’s proposed Fast Track Approvals Bill has “significant risks” and should be amended before it becomes law.

The comments were included in a detailed submission paper approved by GWRC at its council meeting yesterday.

The paper is due to be sent to the select committee as part of the legislative consultation process, and GWRC will also ask to be able to speak to their submission.

Key points highlighted by GWRC include that the legislation as currently drafted has risks for the environment and community, there is limited recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the roles of regional and unitary councils in the proposed process need strengthening.

“The proposed fast-track legislation poses significant risks to the environment and economy, to mana whenua and communities, and should not move forward without substantial amendments,” the submission says.

“We are concerned that the limited recognition of Te Tiriti articles, which undermines the interests of Māori, with high concern for iwi yet to settle with the Crown.”

GWRC is concerned about possible harm to the environment under the new proposals.

“There is no balance between development goals and environmental/climate considerations in this legislation that could lead to long-term negative impacts on the environment, society, and the economy.”

GWRC also believes the public should have an opportunity to comment on the list of eligible projects, and the bill should contain a sunset clause to make fast-tracking temporary while wider substantial resource management reform legislation is developed.

“The breadth of legislation that the bill overrides [clause 10] coupled with the lack of full regulatory impact statement raises the risk of unintended consequences. Great care is required in the absence of this analysis to avoid unintended and irreversible economic and environmental consequences,” the submission states.

“There is no requirement for ministers or the expert panel to seek comment from the public, affected parties, or to hold a hearing.

“Rights to appeal are very limited and can only be made on questions of law. As a minimum, affected property owners should be advised and have the right to make submissions.”

A GWRC official who spoke to the submission described the difference with the current process as “significant”.

“Compared with the legislation we’ve had in play for quite a period of time under the Resource Management Act, it is a definite evolution from the current consenting process. I think it is deliberately called ‘fast track’ and it is quite different from what we currently have,” the official said.

“I would say it is a significant change compared with what we’ve been working under.”

The fast-track approvals bill will enable a fast-track decision-making process for infrastructure and development projects that are considered to have significant regional or national benefits.

The closing date for public submissions is 19 April.

    See pages 6-8 for an in-depth look at what the Fast Track Approvals Bill may mean for Wairarapa.

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