Greenpeace urges Kiwis to stop fast-track approval bill in its tracks; cabinet keen to restart developments

Members of the public have until 11:59pm on Friday, April 19 to submit their views on fast-track approval changes being proposed by the coalition government

The fast-track approval bill gives three cabinet ministers unprecedented power to make decisions on large developments and infrastructure projects without the approval of the public - including hapū, iwi, scientists, environmental experts, and affected local communities.

Te Ao Māori News spoke to Greenpeace spokesperson and deep-sea mining campaigner Juressa Lee (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi, Ngāi te Rangi, Tupapa, Ngatangiia) about how this bill will impact the environment and Maori.

While the bill refers to Treaty settlements, there is no mention of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which could be seen as a failure to meet te Tiriti obligations to Māori.

The bill doesn’t include a need for approval from hapū and iwi - only consultation, she says.

“Consultation to me without the right to approve or disapprove sounds like a token conversation. It sounds like a denial of power and a trampling of our mana. It’s not enough.”

This bill means ministers can override the Resource Management Act, Wildlife Act, and Conservation Act, which he says raises concerns for tāngata whenua and environmental groups like Greenpeace and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining.

One potential applicant for this process is the Australian-owned mining company Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR).

TTR has sought to mine ironsands in south Taranaki for a decade and the project has been rejected numerous times and fought against by mana whenua (Ngāti Ruanui), the local council, environmental experts, activists and scientists.

It has been rejected by the Supreme Court and yet Minister Chris Bishop has invited the mining company, along with 200 other organisations, to apply for this fast-track process.

Lee believes the mining would cause destruction and disruption to the habitat that is home to kororā, blue pygmy whales, and the critically endangered Māui dolphins.

But Trans-Tasman Resources claims the project will have a short-term, confined environmental impact with rapid recovery and environmental rehabilitation that will have no impact on fish, whales or dolphins.

Asked if TTR is minimising the risks of environmental impact and Lee says: “TTR has failed time and time again to prove these claims” and has been rejected numerous times because of the environmental impact.

If TTR refuses to have its claims tested through due process, at this point, I would only say that whatever is on its website is industry propaganda.

—  Juressa Lee

In an interview on Te Ao with Moana, Maōri Development and Conservation Minister Tama Potaka said the bill would give Maori the opportunity to lead projects, co-design, co-invest, and that iwi projects that had failed because of the Resource Management Act and conservation processes would now have the opportunity to go forward.

Like Potaka, Lee is all for Maori leadership in big projects but says this doesn’t have to mean prosperity through extraction and pillaging conservation land and seabed.

We care about papatūānuku and we understand that her health is linked to our own. Her livelihood is linked to our own livelihoods.

—  Juressa Lee

Lee is keen to see projects that aren’t just iwi-led but are mātauranga Māori-led; that protect the livelihoods of Maōri, including mokopuna to come.

Lee talks about childhood memories of road trips - stopping off in Te Kaha and collecting freshwater in bottles from the rocks is something she would like to do with her great-grandchildren but it’s places like this that are at risk, she says.

She says everyone has stories about places people swim and gather kai, and can all find reasons to submit against the fast-track approval bill.

To make a submission on the bill you can do so here.

Greenpeace also offers a template to oppose the bill here.

The first, the parliamentary website, lists the changes and invites submissions to the environment select committee. (A select committee is a traditional name for Parliament’s committees where MPs consider bills and whether they need changing before going back to the full Parliament).

Under the bill, to access the fast-track approvals process, project owners would need to apply to the joint ministers. A project would then be referred to an expert panel to assess the project and make a recommendation to the joint ministers, who would then determine whether the approvals should be granted or declined.

The bill will establish a separate process for approvals under different law including:

  • resource consents, notices of requirement, and certificates of compliance (Resource Management Act 1991)
  • concessions (Conservation Act 1987)
  • authority to do anything otherwise prohibited under the Wildlife Act 1953
  • archaeological authority (Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014)
  • marine consents (Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Act 2012)
  • land access (Crown Minerals Act 1991)
  • aquaculture activity approvals (Fisheries Act 1996).