Tick of approval for government’s infrastructure fast-track


A new law allowing for 11 infrastructure projects to be fast-tracked to help rebuild the post-COVID economy

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IrrigationNZ is commending the government’s recognition around the importance of water storage, as part of its post-COVID infrastructure fast-track. A new law allowing for 11 infrastructure projects to be fast-tracked to help rebuild the post-COVID economy, includes the Kaikohe water storage facility in Northland as one of the projects earmarked. 

Northland has struggled with drought since the end of 2019 and this facility will provide water for agricultural and horticultural use, as well as drinking water for the area. The project is expected to create 70 jobs.   

"It is very promising to see our country move toward embracing the right mix of regulatory and environmental frameworks to allow water infrastructure to develop for the benefit of all - including the environment and Iwi," says IrrigationNZ chief executive Elizabeth Soal. 

"The slow and often clumsy RMA process has long been a stumbling block for progressing pragmatic and necessary water infrastructure in areas where it is sorely needed by the community," she says. 

"Having reliable water is integral to the ongoing sustainability of Aotearoa, New Zealand. Not only does it enable food and fibre production but it also provides for the basic need of clean drinking water, supports the health of waterways, unlocks the potential of previously under developed land, and importantly, in the post-COVID context creates incomes, jobs and lays the foundation for years of social and economic development. 

"The next step is an overarching water strategy to guide planning and ensure further water storage development is in the right place, for the right reasons, with the right funding." 

Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor said this week that the primary industry is in a good position to help re-boot the economy, with primary exports on track to grow by $1.7 billion on last year. 

"Access to reliable water is key to this growth," says Elizabeth. 

Environment minister David Parker said the 11 infrastructure projects included in the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast Track) Bill will be introduced in the House later this week.

The minister said that the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and Treaty Settlement obligations will apply to all projects under this Bill. Once the Bill passes, the projects will be referred directly to Expert Consenting Panels, which will set appropriate conditions on the projects before they can proceed. 

He has encouraged further applications to be sent to him, which will be assessed as part of the Fast Track Bill to stimulate the economy. IrrigationNZ encourages communities to come together to identify water storage options for their area to ensure resilience to economic shocks like COVID-19 and the future implications of climate change. 

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Elizabeth Soal

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