Chris Bishop said that the Resource Management Act’s (RMA) replacement legislation would “be gone by Christmas”. That ideology was common to all three of the coalition parties and the replacement legislation will be repealed.

The coalition negotiations have produced a Christmas present for proponents of large projects: a fast-track one stop-shop consenting and permitting process; to borrow the Canadian tag “One Project: One Process”.

The National and NZ First coalition agreement released this morning contains four bullets on Resource Management Act 1991 reform. The first three refer, in general terms, to making consents easier, streamlining and simplifying the plan making processes and related statutes such as the Reserves Act and Public Works Act.

The final bullet contains a specific commitment to establishing a new consenting and permitting process for projects of national and regional significance. A Bill to introduce the process will have its first reading as a part of the government’s 100 day plan.

We expect it will be something “similar but different” to the COVID Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 process. There is little detail in the coalition agreement, but there are a few important clues.

The reference to a “one stop-shop” and a “consenting and permitting process” suggests that the process will deal with more than just resource consents. We will need to wait for the Bill to be introduced into the House to know for sure, but there is precedent for that approach in Australia and Canada. There would be a considerable efficiency from a single decision-making process determining the suite of regulatory approvals through one process.  

The other clue is the reference to projects of national and regional significance. That suggests only truly major projects will qualify. The existing fast-track consenting regime, put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, attracted a wide range of projects, including apartment and office buildings. Many of those projects would struggle to meet a national or regional significance test.

To be fair, the now closed off COVID Fast-track, which still has around 100 projects in the consenting stream, had a primary focus on employment promotion. Size and wider economic significance were secondary considerations.

The likely benefit for being selected will likely be a quicker and more certain consenting process. It is almost inevitable that the coalition will go further than the previous government’s fast-track process. Assuming so, there are only a few realistic options to provide certainty for projects beyond what was in the COVID Fast-track legislation. One could be that applications for qualifying projects cannot be declined, and decisions are limited to conditions. Another variation could be that the ability to decline a project could be constrained to certain factors. Submission rights are likely to be constrained in some way and, almost certainly, any appeal rights would be limited to questions of law.

A significant failing of the COVID Fast-track was projects that were claimed to be shovel ready were actually shovel distant. The new administration will not want to fall into the same hole, but the risk remains. Promoters can expect some hard questioning about their level of commitment and certainty of funding.

However the final regime comes together, the concept of a “one-stop shop” will no doubt be welcomed by proponents of large projects who all too often get tangled in the web of different but related approvals. For those projects, Christmas might have come early.

The wider signal seems to be that the new administration hopes to develop and trade our way to carbon neutrality rather than retreat to it. If it succeeds, the present for future Christmases may be spread across the whole economy.


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