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UPDATED: 22 JUNE 2020 – We’ve been calling on the Government to Build Back Better in New Zealand’s Covid recovery.

Now there has been a development and there was a small opportunity for you to have a say.

The Government is rushing through a special law called the ‘COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill’ which is designed to fast-track some of the Covid recovery projects and spending.

They gave less than a week, but it’s really important that we have a say because, while there are some good things in it, there are also some areas of concern.

We’re concerned that it bypasses screening of climate impacts, and that it could allow polluting projects to get the greenlight without the need for robust public consultation.

To that end, we have put together the open letter below which flags our key concerns, and we invited people to add their names to the letter to give it more weight.  We then sent the open letter and everyone’s names, to the Government, along with the Greenpeace Submission to the Environment Select Committee on The Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill.

A green and just Covid recovery is vitally important because, as we’ve dealt with the pandemic, the climate crisis has only become more urgent. 

Time is running out. But if the billions that will be spent on the Covid economic recovery, are spent in ways that make New Zealand more resilient, less polluting and fairer  – we could build back better in the face of the climate crisis. 

It’s really important that we act now before it’s too late.

If you want to make a more detailed submission yourself, you can also do that here on the Government website and you can read the Bill here, and you can sign on to our open letter:

To the members of the Environment Select Committee:

Re: COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill

The Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill contains some positives, but also some potential pitfalls to which I object.

The restrictions on iwi/Māori rights to appeal decisions on fast-tracked projects is of great concern. Speed is important, but not at the expense of proper decision-making involvement of Treaty partners as per Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Restrictions on general public consultation are also of great concern to me, given the scale of infrastructure development that is being envisaged.

I’m pleased that the Bill encourages projects that help New Zealand transition to a low-emissions economy, improve environmental outcomes and help make us more resilient to climate impacts. It is fantastic to see cycling and rail projects specifically listed in the Bill, as they will provide critical transport options as we move to a low-emissions economy.

But the Bill appears to have bypassed a mandatory climate impacts assessment set up by the Government in 2019. Under your own rules the Government is supposed to examine new laws through a climate lens, to see if they will improve or worsen emissions.

The expansion of State Highway 1 should not be included. Data from the Ministry for the Environment shows transport is New Zealand’s fastest growing source of carbon emissions, and therefore should not have passed the climate-lens test.

We urge the Government to add climate change as a bottom line and ensure that infrastructure projects which would increase emissions, are not allowed to be fast-tracked.

The inclusion of irrigation dams, which are well-known to negatively impact rivers and waterways is also of concern. Given the recent freshwater report which revealed New Zealand’s waterways are in a seriously degraded and polluted state, we urge the Government to rule out fast-tracking any irrigation schemes.

Specific Recommendations

  • Add a climate change bottom line to the law: no projects that increase emissions should be fast-tracked.
  • Remove SH1 expansion and the Kaikohe irrigation scheme from the list of fast-track projects.
  • Provide that the fast-track process should adopt the precautionary principle when scrutinising projects whose environmental, climate or Tiriti impacts are uncertain.
  • Ensure that all New Zealanders have the right to provide written submissions on any project that is fast tracked.

Signed by 3,964 people.