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NZ insurers flag concerns over fast-track planning laws

The Insurance Council of New Zealand has called for changes to proposed laws on a new streamlined decision-making process for infrastructure and development projects with significant regional or national benefits.

ICNZ says the Fast-Track Approvals Bill needs provisions that enhance resilience and ensure projects safeguard people and property against natural hazards such as flooding.

“We acknowledge the purpose of the Fast-Tack Approvals Bill to deliver faster infrastructure and development projects,” CEO Kris Faafoi said. “We especially support the establishment of a fast-track pathway for projects that bolster adaptation, resilience and recovery from natural hazards.

“However, it’s critical that such initiatives do not inadvertently exacerbate risks to our communities.”

ICNZ says its recommendations will “strengthen” the ability of an expert panel and ministers to weigh natural hazard and climate risks before deciding on a project application.

It suggests amending one clause to empower ministers to decline an application, even if they are satisfied it meets eligibility criteria, if the project’s exposure to natural hazard risks is too high.

It also calls for stronger requirements around what natural hazards information should be included in a referral application, so ministers can make more informed decisions about whether to fast-track approval.

ICNZ says the bill must not inadvertently provide a pathway for projects that expose communities to excessive financial and physical risk from natural hazards.

“Decision-makers should take a long-term view that supports the broad availability of insurance by avoiding new development in high-risk areas,” it says in a submission to a consultation on the bill.

“A sustainable insurance sector, one where cover is available and affordable for New Zealand homes and businesses, needs a consistent and comprehensive approach to ensure land use and development supports tolerable levels of risk.”

The bill was introduced to parliament in March, but it has met growing opposition from New Zealanders. Thousands recently protested in Auckland amid concerns the environment could be compromised.

Click here for the ICNZ submission and here for the bill’s details.