Fast-Tracking Projects for New Zealand’s COVID-19 Recovery: The Role of Economic Analysis

26 June 2020
Kevin Counsell

In May 2020, the New Zealand government began the process of developing special legislation to support the country’s recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic: the COVID-19 Recovery (Fast Track Consenting) Bill. The proposed legislation will enable infrastructure and development projects to be fast-tracked through the existing resource consent approval process, with the aim of supporting investment and employment as New Zealand recovers from the impacts of COVID-19.

The bill provides for eligible projects to be assessed on the basis of factors such as their economic benefits and costs and employment effects. However, NERA Senior Consultant Kevin Counsell notes that the bill does not provide any guidance on this assessment, and therefore recommends utilizing the economic tool of cost benefit analysis (CBA). CBA evaluates all the relevant benefits and costs (including employment effects) associated with a project. As Mr. Counsell explains, such an analysis will ensure that fast-tracked projects will not only support New Zealand’s near-term COVID-19 recovery, but will do so in a way that ensures an overall net benefit to New Zealand society more broadly into the foreseeable future.