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Fast-Track Approvals Bill – An animal welfare and environmental disaster

Fast-Track Approvals Bill – An animal welfare and environmental disaster

March 20th, 2024

By now, you may have come across the headlines about the government’s Fast Track Approvals Bill, which has been gaining attention recently. You may even have heard some of the many concerns raised by environmentalists, animal welfare organisations, indigenous leaders and advocates across the spectrum. 

But how did we get here?

The Fast-Track Approvals Bill was proposed by the Government as part of their 100-day plan. Passed through the House under urgency on 7 March 2024, the Bill is now undergoing a brief period of public consultation with the Environment Committee.  

However, its implications are far-reaching and demand our attention.  

At its core, the Fast-Track Approvals Bill aims to speed up approval processes for large-scale infrastructure projects and resource consents* deemed to have significant regional or national benefits.  

Supposedly, its objective is to reduce costs and timeframes associated with implementing such developments. However, a closer look reveals alarming provisions that jeopardise democratic principles, environmental integrity, and animal welfare.  

What are SAFE’s concerns around the Bill?

The Bill establishes a separate approvals process for resource consents* under the Resource Management Act (RMA)**, aquaculture activities under the Fisheries Act 1996, and even grants authority to carry out activities otherwise prohibited under the Wildlife Act 1953. Most concerning is the provision claiming precedence over other legislation in the decision-making process, potentially paving the way for projects that would otherwise be prohibited.  

Of grave concern is the threat posed to animal welfare by fast-tracking intensive farming developments such as fish farms, feedlots, and dairy operations. Countless animals stand to be affected with little to no consideration for their welfare.  

Furthermore, the Bill removes the mandate for public consultation on resource consents, effectively silencing the voices of affected communities and giving unchecked power to a select few Ministers.  

Under the proposed legislation, project owners must apply to the Ministers for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, and Conservation for fast-tracked approval. These Ministers hold broad discretion to approve or deny applications, with expert panels appointed by the Minister for Infrastructure potentially providing input. However, there’s no requirement for public input on proposals, and Ministers are not bound by expert panel recommendations.  

Despite vague provisions aiming to uphold Treaty of Waitangi settlements, the Bill risks steamrolling indigenous voices and perspectives without proper consultation.  

Modeled after the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting) Act 2020, which was a short-term measure to stimulate economic growth during the pandemic, this Bill lacks clarity on sustainable resource management and poses indefinite threats to democratic values.  

The Resource Management Act was already in dire need of reform to prioritise animal welfare. The Fast-Track Approvals Bill threatens to regress Aotearoa into a state where profit precedes environmental integrity, indigenous rights, and democratic principles.  

What can be done?

New Zealanders deserve a say in what happens in their communities, and it’s imperative that we unite to oppose this erosion of our democratic values. In the face of this threat, it’s crucial that concerned citizens engage in the public consultation process, raise awareness, and advocate for the protection of our environment, animal welfare, and democratic rights.  

Together, we can uphold the values that make New Zealand a beacon of democracy and environmental stewardship. 

We have until 19 April 2024 to voice our opposition to the dangerous Fast-Track Approvals Bill, and we urge you to join us in making a submission to the Environment Committee. We’ve made it easy for you to have your say here. 



A brief list of the many different laws impacting animals in New Zealand (which would be overridden by the Fast-Track Approvals Bill):

  • Animal Welfare Act 1999 – New Zealand’s primary piece of animal welfare legislation. Aims to prevent ill-treatment to animals, and ensure that the physical, health, and behavioural needs of animals are met. 
  • Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 – introduced to supplement the Animal Welfare Act with more detailed requirements on farm husbandry, transport and surgical procedures.  
  • Wildlife Act 1953 – aims to protect animals classed as wildlife, including native, introduced and endangered species.  
  • Conservation Act 1987 – establishes the Department of Conservation and aims to protect indigenous biodiversity.  
  • Fisheries Act 1996 – provides for aquacultural activities (like fish farming) while aiming to ensure sustainability. 
  • Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 – aims to protect and conserve marine mammals within New Zealand waters and provide for the establishment of marine sanctuaries. 
  • Resource Management Act 1991 – promotes the sustainable management of natural and physical resources to (1) meet the foreseeable needs of future generations; (2) safeguard the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems; and (3) avoid, remedy, or mitigate adverse effects of activities on the environment. “Natural and physical resources” explicitly includes all animals. The RMA requires that activities which may adversely impact natural and physical resources apply for resource consent: 


*What are resource consents?  

Resource consent is permission to carry out an activity that may adversely impact the environment. These can range from minor activities, like building a garage or subdividing a property, to major projects like large-scale farming developments. Applications considered to have potentially major environmental effects must be publicly notified, meaning local councils hear feedback from members of the public before deciding whether to approve or reject a proposal. The public consultation process on resource consents is essential to a fair, inclusive and democratic decision-making process. Public consultation is a crucial means for the public, advocacy organisations and Tangata Whenua to have a seat at the table in decisions affecting the environment we share and allows organisations like SAFE to give animals a voice and advocate in their best interest.  


**The Resource Management Act already fell short of protecting animals

The RMA already fell short of aligning with animal care and protection provisions outlined in the Animal Welfare Act. Resource consents considered under the RMA were not required to demonstrate compliance with the Animal Welfare Act 1999, meaning that harmful operations like winter grazing and fish-factory farms, were approved with no consideration for animal welfare. 


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