Release: Fast track bill must have environment at its centre

The National Government must completely overhaul the Fast Track Approvals Bill to put protection of the environment at the centre of its purpose.

“Any developments approved under the Bill must work with nature, not against it,” Labour environment spokesperson Rachel Brooking said.

The Government said yesterday it will make decisions on the final design of the Fast Track Approvals Bill in the next few months, incorporating sensible changes suggested through the select committee process.

“Working with nature is the most sensible change needed in this Bill. Protecting the environment from destructive development should be included in the purpose of any consenting process. The Bill in its current form could destroy our natural environment, allow climate-polluting industries to expand, and see affected communities locked out of the process.

“We’ve heard from concerned New Zealanders repeatedly that this Bill will hurt the natural environment and communities for generations, and that it must be stopped.

“Labour brought in a fast track consenting process that works with nature not against it, to approve sustainable development such as renewable energy projects, housing and infrastructure. We have several renewable energy projects consented already.

“We do not need new coal mines, and we definitely do not need new coal mines on conservation land, in kiwi habitat.

“There are other problems with the Bill in its current form – locking communities and iwi out of the process, Ministers having the final say on projects, and the potential for projects that have previously been declined, like Te Kuha mine, to be approved under this piece of legislation without any regard for the native species it could affect. New Zealanders need to know if this is the case as under the fast track process, they won’t have a chance to voice their concerns.

“The National Government is making a choice to prioritise short term, potentially environmentally damaging projects like coal mines, without any input from the communities they will affect long term,” said Rachel Brooking.

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