Resource management changes needed to meet climate goals

New research shows that a 50% improvement in resource consent processing times could be needed for New Zealand to meet its 2050 emissions target.

Commissioned by Te Waihanga, the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission and developed by Sapere Research Group, Infrastructure Consenting for Climate Targets looks at how much energy and transport infrastructure New Zealand needs to support transition to a low emissions economy. Researchers modelled how long it would take to process the necessary consents under the Resource Management Act (RMA) and what it might cost if New Zealand failed to develop the necessary infrastructure.

"In an earlier study of consenting costs, Sapere identified that since 2014/15 consent times have blown out by 150%. Everyone agreed that was a worrying trend but until now we could only speculate on what the implications of longer consenting times would be," says Te Waihanga CEO, Ross Copland.

"As efficiency is a key objective for resource management reforms, this latest study helps build a picture of how much more efficient the new system needs to be. It reinforces the need to reverse increasing consent processing times if we want to meet our Net Zero 2050 commitment."

Te Waihanga is currently working with the Ministry for the Environment on the new system. It is leading work on a new national direction for infrastructure which includes guidance on regional spatial strategies and nationally consistent rules and standards for infrastructure. Te Waihanga commissioned Infrastructure Consenting for Climate Targets to help inform discussion about the new resource management system.

"The report adds a climate lens to the issue of consenting times. It points to consenting times for infrastructure needing to be 50 percent quicker than they’re projected to be in 2028 under the RMA"

"Slow or uncertain consenting times heighten the risks faced by infrastructure providers through higher project financing costs, delays in awarding contracts or the procurement of critical materials with long lead times," Copland says.

"They can also act as a barrier to new market entrants looking to invest and reduce infrastructure pipeline certainty. That makes it harder to invest in the workforce that we’re going to need to build green infrastructure, whether it is wind turbines or public transportation.

"These issues have significant implications for our environmental goals. If we can’t reverse this trend of slower and more complex consenting, New Zealand simply won’t be able to build the energy, transport and other infrastructure we need to achieve our 2050 emissions target."

The report estimates that if recent trends in infrastructure resource consenting times continue, we risk generating an emissions liability of between $5 and $16 billion dollars by 2050.

Ross Copland spoke to Corina Comendant, Senior Managing Economist at Sapere about the findings of the report.