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Greenpeace says the Government is dodging its own guidelines to push through a new fast-track covid law.

The Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill, unveiled this afternoon, is designed to speed up infrastructure projects with the aim of providing urgently needed employment.

However it seems the proposed legislation has bypassed a mandatory climate impacts assessment set up by the Government at the end of last year.

“Under their own rules the Coalition Government is supposed to examine laws through a climate lens, to see if they will improve or worsen emissions,” says Greenpeace Climate & Energy Campaigner, Amanda Larsson.

In its 12 May Cabinet Paper, the Government spoke strongly of the need to become a more climate-resilient country.

“That’s encouraging rhetoric, but they appear to have skipped over the important step where the Government checks whether the law and the projects are actually good for the climate or not.”

Greenpeace is applauding cycling and rail projects named in the Bill, which will provide critical transport options as we move to a low-emissions economy.

But Larsson says it’s hard to believe that the expansion of State Highway 1 has made it onto the list.

Data from the Ministry for the Environment shows transport is New Zealand’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions.

Larsson questions how the SH1 project could have gotten past the Government’s self-imposed climate-lens test, introduced by Climate Change Minister James Shaw, in December 2019.

“That test was designed to ensure that emission-spewing projects like roading extensions, just don’t get out the door.”

Greenpeace is also disappointed to see irrigation dams included in the fast-track Bill.

“New Zealand’s waterways are in serious trouble already. The public should have a say on whether they want more of their rivers dammed and drained for irrigation.”

Greenpeace wants bottom line protections for the climate built into the new Bill and this could be done at the Select Committee stage.

“No infrastructure projects which increase emissions should be allowed to be fast-tracked,” says Larsson.

“The Covid Recovery has given us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better. We must seize this chance to address the climate crisis and restore nature.”

Greenpeace is also concerned that the Bill significantly limits public consultation.

“Any proposal which restricts the ability of iwi/Māori in particular to challenge or appeal decisions on infrastructure projects should ring alarm bells.” 

ENDS