By Tim Jones

What’s the Government planning to do?

The recently introduced Fast-track Approval Bill is a massive power grab by the new Government. Under it, three Ministers will have the power to arbitrarily decide that projects, including coal mines on conservation land, can go ahead without any public input. Radio New Zealand has produced a great explainer about the Bill which is vital reading – please do read it!

It gets worse. The Bill gives the Government the power to resurrect projects that have already been rejected by the courts – including the proposed Te Kuha coal mine on the West Coast, which Forest & Bird and CANA have worked together to oppose.

Fast track protest in Karangahake gorge, Coromandel, March 2024.
Photo: R Rockell

As the Radio New Zealand explainer says:

“Forest & Bird’s Capie fears the Te Kuha coal mine and the Ruataniwha dam and irrigation scheme – two projects which courts have ruled against – could be resurrected under the act.

The Te Kuha coal mine needed three sets of permission to proceed including resource consents, permission to mine public conservation land and permission to mine the public reserve. It previously lost in all three processes.”

Why is the new Bill so bad?

This process is unaccountable, undemocratic, will lead to bad projects being rubber-stamped, and is all too open to corruption. It is also, to put it mildly, highly misleading: the Bill was supposed to include two initial lists of projects to be fast-tracked, but when it was introduced, those lists were left blank.

Chris Bishop expects you to take his explanation of this at face value:

“Bishop told TVNZ the projects were not published because he was worried it would “overwhelm” the select committee.”

Yeah, right. In reality, the Government knows that New Zealanders will be even more outraged if they see the list of environment- and climate-wrecking projects that these Ministers and their donor & industry mates have cooked up.

Chris Bishop also appears to be concerned the legal risk of including these projects in the Bill. Even the big end of town has its doubts about this Bill, and the Government has been hearing those behind the scenes from lawyers and others, and getting increasingly nervous about public response.

This Bill has already provoked protests in Hauraki and Taranaki.

There will be more.

protest with lots of signs at TSB hub, Hawera

No Fast Track No Seabed Mining protest outside EPA hearings in Hāwera, 13 March. Photo: Matt Coffey

What you can do right now
The Bill, minus those lists of projects, is currently before the Environment Select Committee for consideration. Submissions close on Friday 19 April. Please submit to tell the Committee why this Bill is bad for you, for your community, and for our nation. Also, please ask to speak to the Committee in person.
The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) has produced a set of slides  and a draft submission to help you work out your submission points.
Forest and Bird have a brief template submission, but please note that you should only use this if you do not want to make an oral submission.

Next,  please write to your nearest MP – especially if they’re an MP from one of the governing parties. Tell them what you, personally, dislike about this Bill, and the consequences the Government is likely to face from pushing this Bill and its hidden list of projects through. Be polite, but leave them in no doubt about what you think and feel.

The coal companies are gloating over this Bill.

But they’ve gloated before, and we’ve left them with egg on their faces. Let’s do it again.