Fast Track Bill UPDATE

We have been digging deeper in to this Bill and what other hooks are in there; we have already written about the loss of democratic process, the exclusion of mana whenua and community alike, and experts and  the removal of Schedule 4 for the Coromandel Peninsula.

What we know now is that it would also over ride all local planning protection instruments, like covenants, of Local Government prohibitions etc.

The Bill references specific instruments for te iwi Māori, such as customary right, without any reference to te Tiriti principals, a cynical way of subverting participation of mana whenua and other taganta whenua.

Shockingly, there are no explicit requirements to take the environment into account anywhere in the Bill. Indeed, while some other Ministers may be consulted from time to time, there is no mention of the Minister for the Environment in the Bill at all. The Minister of Conservation is not meaningfully involved either.

As well as basically shutting out everyone from the decision making process, there are limits of types of notification, when and who can be notified – and the ‘expert panel’ that will be established (no idea who they are) will be restricted in the conditions they can set. In fact, the Minister/s can simply override them, if they are ‘too onerous’ for the applicant.

There doesn’t seem to be any way where groups, communities or individuals can monitor what projects are on the Fast-track list, short of checking the EPA website each day! The proposed project lists is not likely to come out before select committee process – even to Select Committee members – unlike the Covid RecoverFast Track legislation, where it was all upfront from the start.

There is a real lack of clarity around how the ‘expert panel’ will be selected, and while the panel can recommend conditions, again in contrast to the previous legislation, the ultimate decision remains with the Ministers, and they retain the right to instruct the panel to reduce conditions they recommend. The Panel will not be able to recoupment a project be declined. And they will only have 6 months to arrange all of the required Wild Life Act approvals, Conservation Act approvals, Heritage approvals, Consents and anything else required.

In the limited circumstances where an appeal could be taken (points of law),they can only be taken by a group/individual that represents a greater interest than a member of the public. And any legal challenges/appeals have very short notice periods/response periods, also with no requirements to publicly notify.

Worryingly, and we are still trying to understand them, there are also changes to Public Works Act…

And, the Act appears to also apply to the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf!

What can we do, we hear you asking? Well, now is a great time to write to the PM and Ministers, to let them know that in the interests of transparency and democracy they must release the list of initial projects (there’s a list of address on our ‘What Can I Do’ page…).

And, when you are ready, we have prepared a blank submission form here with all the info you must have that you can either copy and paste to your email, or print out and snail mail in (don’t forget, it’s FREE to post things to Parliament)… it is so much more powerful to write it yourself, even if it’s only 2 or 3 sentences long! Feel free to use our blogs and social posts as inspo!