Opportunities Provided by Committed Pipeline & Fast-Tracked Consenting for Infrastructure Projects

Introduction

The work the Government is currently undertaking to identify a pipeline of infrastructure projects that are ready for construction and can be deployed as part of a stimulatory package is welcome news for infrastructure industry participants, developers, investors and critically, our economy. The project work and flow-on effects will be crucial to the economy during the COVID-19 recovery phase. As such, speed is of the essence and, as a consequence, the Government has confirmed that the standard consenting processes under the Resource Management Act 1991 (‘RMA’) will not constrain this initiative. 

Infrastructure Projects - Government Support / Funding

The new infrastructure projects initiative is in addition to the Government’s $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme and existing Provincial Growth Fund infrastructure investments.

An Infrastructure Industry Reference Group (‘Reference Group’) has been established and is tasked with preparing a report to Ministers on infrastructure projects which are ready for construction and suitable for government support. A list of projects will be provided to the Ministers for consideration in early May.

The Government will then decide which projects can be funded and ready to go when the construction workforce returns to work.

Project Nomination & Criteria

The Reference Group is currently seeking project nominations and has released Project Information Guidelines (‘Guidelines’), requiring nominated projects to demonstrate the project satisfies the following four criteria:

 

  1. Establish the project is construction-ready;
  2. The project is of an infrastructure nature, either horizontal or vertical, and is public or regional benefit infrastructure;
  3. The project is $10m+ and has material employment benefits;
  4. Identification of the overall benefits and risks of the project.

 

The ‘overall benefits’ of a project include consideration of economic, social and environmental benefits and regional/nationwide benefits.  This includes projects, either public or private sector, that will benefit the wider public or a particular regional area due to its nature.

Projects are not limited to horizontal projects. Examples of projects provided in the Guidelines include transport, wastewater treatment, potable water, stormwater, schools, hospitals, tertiary education, community facilities, energy, regionally or nationally significant infrastructure such as airports and ports or infrastructure that supports key industries such as tourism and agriculture.

Government Developing Options for Fast-Tracking Consents

The identification of projects is the first step in readying a pipeline of projects for immediate construction. In conjunction with the work being undertaken to identify key infrastructure projects, the Government has confirmed that it is also developing options for fast-tracking consents for identified projects.

While no further information has been made available on what a fast-track consent process might look like, the Environment Minister, David Parker, has indicated that these details will be provided in the coming weeks (together with the details of projects under consideration):

“It is likely Cabinet will make decisions before the end of the lockdown period. In the coming weeks, I will announce the details for how we will improve the speed and certainty of consenting and what projects are under consideration.”

Deadline Date for Nominations

Not surprisingly, the process for identification and consideration of projects is a fast-moving one, with industry participants having until 5pm on Tuesday 14 April 2020 to nominate projects for consideration (via the Crown Infrastructure Partnership).

Benefits & Opportunities

Where this Government infrastructure initiative is executed as intended, it will be a key driver of economic growth, resulting in economic benefits at a regional and national level.

While the Reference Group has been clear that the initiative is not intended to ‘bail out’ the private sector, the initiative provides opportunity for the private sector, provided infrastructure projects will achieve a public benefit.

A clear pipeline of committed infrastructure projects will also have flow-on effect for developers, landowners and investors, providing certainty of infrastructure supporting growth and development in areas.

If you would like further explanation or information regarding nominating a project or wish to be kept informed of infrastructure projects under consideration by the Government, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with our team at Adderley Head.

Disclaimer: This is a brief summary for information purposes only and is not legal advice.

Posted on Wednesday 8th April, 2020 at 12:54 pm