The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 (the Act) provides for a short-term consenting process to fast track projects that can boost employment and economic recovery.
The Act has a ‘sunset clause’ meaning it will be repealed three years from enactment.
The fast-track consent process
You can make a resource consent application or lodge a notice of requirement for listed or referred projects under the Act.
Expert consenting panels make decisions on both the resource consent applications and notice of requirements, and set conditions on the projects before they can go ahead.
The Environmental Protection Authority provides advice and administrative support for the panel convener and expert consenting panels, which are appointed by the convener.
The legislation enabling fast-track consenting came into effect on 9 July 2020. It includes a 'sunset clause' which will see the legislation repealed on 8 July 2023.
If an application is received prior to 8 July 2023, the provisions of the Act continue to apply for that application until the application process is completed.
The Act will be repealed on 8 July 2023, although any application that has been commenced will continue to be determined under the Act.
There are three types of projects that fall under the Act, and each follow a different process:
These are projects that are listed in the Act. Applicants can lodge resource consent applications or notices of requirement directly with the EPA.
These projects must meet eligibility criteria and be referred by the Minister for the Environment, through an Order in Council. Once approved, applicants can lodge applications or notices of requirement with the EPA.
Work on infrastructure by approved organisations
Some work on infrastructure by approved organisations, such as the NZ Transport Agency and KiwiRail can be carried out as permitted activities (they don’t require resource consents) if conditions in the Act are met.
Expert consenting panels
The panels have similar powers to consenting authorities, like councils, under the Resource Management Act (RMA).
Each panel will have a minimum of three members. The Panel Convenor, Alternate Environment Court Judge L J Newhook, will appoint the panel. Each panel will be chaired by a sitting or retired Environment Court Judge, or senior RMA lawyer. The local authority and local iwi authority may each nominate a person to be a member of the panel.
Commenting on a fast-track consenting application
The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 (the Act) creates a new process to fast-track projects aimed at stimulating the economy.
The Act states that expert consenting panels must not give public or limited notification about a consent application or notice of requirement. However, panels must invite written comments from some people or groups listed in the Act.
For projects referred by an Order in Council (rather than listed in the Act) there may also be additional people invited to provide comments, as set out in the Referral Order.
The EPA's role
Some of our key roles in the fast-track consenting process include:
- supporting the panel convenor
- assessing whether applications and notices of requirement contain the information required by the Act
- receiving comments on projects from specified parties
- support for hearing processes if a hearing takes place
- supporting panels from when they are appointed through to the issuing of a decision
- making administrative decisions incidental to the conduct of the panel
- recovering costs from applicants.
This flowchart shows the fast-track consenting process timeline.