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Fast-track consenting a boost to commercial property sector

The Government’s planned fast-track process for resource consents has the potential to spark greater market activity and innovation in the commercial property sector, says Bayleys.

In early March, as part of its 100-day action plan, the Government announced its Fast-track Approvals Bill, a one-stop-shop for faster consenting that would see eligible projects of regional or national significance referred by inisters to an expert panel. That panel would have a maximum six months to make recommendations, before referring back to the relevant minister, who would make the final decision on whether to approve or not.

Bayleys national director customer engagement & advisory Paula Bennett says the Fast-track Approvals Bill, currently before select committee, has the potential to unlock projects currently stalled by bureaucracy and red tape.

“There are significant infrastructure and commercial projects that are shovel ready and much needed to spark growth in the economy and improve the country’s productivity.”

Bennett says the bill is recognition of the issues impeding the country’s economic development. “In many cases the system is broken, extreme delays in consenting means that much-needed infrastructure and housing are not going ahead.

“There is also the very real risk that if we don’t get large-scale projects on the go, we will lose experienced tradespeople, who we are already short of, because they will look overseas for opportunities.

“Bayleys is privileged to work with a wide range of outstanding partners who care about people and the environment of this country. They want to build something they can be proud of,” she says. “It makes sense to have a pipeline of projects the ministers can fast-track to ensure that we keep our country moving.”

Freeing up large projects from the time-consuming and expensive resource consent process should help create an environment more conducive to market activity and innovation from commercial, industrial and logistical developers and operators, she says.

“A more timely and streamlined path through the resource consenting process should help make the costs of large projects more predictable and manageable, reducing risk.”

Projects would become eligible for fast-tracking either through referral by Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones and Transport Minister Simeon Brown, or by being listed in Schedule 2A of the Bill.

Schedule 2A will contain projects considered consent-ready which will automatically be referred to the fast-track process once the bill passes into law. A Schedule 2B list of projects will include those of regional or national significance which the government is keen to progress but which are not yet “consent-ready”.

A fast-track advisory group will be established to advise on projects to include in schedules 2A and 2B. Once the bill is law, other projects can also be referred to the ministers to be considered for fast-tracked consenting.

RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop says the “the one-stop-shop” nature of the bill is a vital part of the proposed fast-tracking process.

An applicant will apply for their project to be fast tracked and ministers, after confirming the project’s regional or national significance, will refer the project to the expert panel.

“The panel will then refer the project back to joint inisters to either approve the project with conditions or decline it. The ministers can also refer the project back to the panel if they consider the conditions placed on the project by the panel to be too onerous,” Bishop said.

The bill will remove the red tape that has been holding back New Zealand’s commercial property sector, he says. “The bill provides a faster, more efficient process to get approvals for projects with significant regional or national benefits, including mixed-use, commercial and residential developments.

“Streamlining multiple approval processes into a one-stop shop consenting regime will deliver nationally and regionally significant infrastructure, increase the supply of housing and address housing needs.”

Leonie Freeman, chief executive of Property Council New Zealand, voices concerns over New Zealand's cumbersome consenting process, citing delays and rigidity that stifle innovation. She emphasises the long-standing issue of sluggish resource consent procedures, which not only slow down projects but also inflate costs unnecessarily. Freeman applauds the government's efforts to tackle these challenges, especially in light of the pressing need for housing and essential infrastructure.

"Less than 18 months ago, our industry grappled with severe supply shortages. The inability to navigate the resource consent process smoothly and adapt to market demands has posed significant challenges. Our members are optimistic that the forthcoming legislation will pave the way for increased development across the sector, spanning residential, commercial, and industrial projects,” Freeman says.

This article first appeared in Bayleys’ Total Property portfolio. Read the full version here.

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