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The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020

The Government has introduced a short-term consenting process to fast track projects that can boost employment and economic recovery. 

The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 (the Act) came into effect on 9 July

COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 [New Zealand Legislation website]

The Act is intended to:

  • fast-track resource consenting and designation processes for eligible projects that are already planned and ready to go
  • accelerate the beginning of work on a range of different sized and located projects   
  • support certainty of ongoing employment and investment across New Zealand
  • continue to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.

This supports the Government’s objectives for economic, environmental and social wellbeing.  The new Act has a ‘sunset clause’ meaning it will be repealed two years from enactment.  

Pathways to the Fast-track consenting process

The Act establishes three pathways for a project to access the fast-track consenting and notice of requirement process.

Projects listed in the Act

The first pathway applies to the projects listed in Schedule 2 of the Act. This means that applications can be made directly to the Environmental Protection Authority for consideration by the Expert Consenting Panels.

Projects confirmed through Orders in Council 

The second pathway applies to all other public and private projects. Any person can apply to the Minister for the Environment for their project to be considered by an Expert Consenting Panel. If the Minister is satisfied the project meets the purpose of the Act and the eligibility criteria, the project will gain access to the fast-track process via an Order in Council recommended to the Governor General. If the application relates, at least in part, to the coastal marine area, the decision will be made jointly with the Minister for Conservation. 

Apply for the fast-track consenting process through an Order in Council.

Permitted works on existing infrastructure

The third pathway enables Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, and KiwiRail Holdings Limited to carry out small-scale repair, maintenance and minor upgrade works on their existing infrastructure within the road and rail corridor without a resource consent (as a permitted activity).  

The Act also enables government agencies Kāinga Ora and the Ministry for Housing and Urban Development, and local government to access these provisions if confirmed through an Order in Council. 

Implications for the Resource Management System 

The Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) will remain the primary legislation to manage the built and natural environment. 

The fast-track consenting legislation does not amend the RMA itself. It only provides an alternative consenting pathway. 

Environmental management safeguards are built into the legislation. 

The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track consenting) Act is a necessary response to the social and economic effects of COVID-19 and is a short-term intervention to support recovery. It will not resolve the fundamental issues in our resource management system.  The report on the comprehensive review of the resource management system was delivered to the Minister in late June 2020.   Until the reform of the resource management system is in place, the RMA is still the main pathway for resource consenting for all other projects.     

Read more about the review 

Legislative History

  • The COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Bill was introduced into the House and passed its first reading on 16 June 2020. You can listen to Minister Parker’s speech on the Parliament On Demand website
  • The Bill was referred to the Environment Select Committee, which reported on the Bill on 29 June 2020. You can read the report on the Parliament website.
  • The Bill passed its second and third readings on 2 July 2020. You can listen to Minister Parker’s speech [Whakaata Pāremata Parliament On Demand website]. 
  • The Act came into effect on 9 July 2020 after receiving Royal Assent. 
  • You can read the Act on the New Zealand legislation website. 

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