The National War Memorial Park (Pukeahu) Empowering Act 2012 (the Act) grants the necessary statutory authorisations and property rights to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to enable the completion of the National War Memorial Park in Wellington by April 2015, the centenary of the commencement of the Gallipoli landings during the First World War.
The Bill was fast tracked through the House, with its introduction on 23 August, the select committee report on 18 September, the third reading on 27 September, and royal assent on 3 October 2012.
The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee considered that the approach taken in the Bill was warranted due to the constrained timeframe for completion of the nationally significant project. It stated that, without this legislation, it is unlikely that the necessary statutory authorisations could be obtained in time for the Park to be completed by April 2015, even making use of the streamlined national consenting process available through the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).
The Act grants resource consents, heritage authorisations, and building consents, and provides the designation, powers of entry onto land, and property rights to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the NZTA. Significantly, the Act removes the standard submission and repeal rights available under the RMA, the Historic Places Act 1993, and the Public Works Act 1981 (PWA). Rights to compensation under the PWA are, however, preserved.
The Act does make the authorisations subject to a range of checks and balances, including the usual associated conditions. Some conditions will require plans or documents to be produced, and the Act includes a process for independently certifying that these documents satisfy the requirements of the conditions.
Although the Act is clearly for honourable intentions, it could be subject to criticism in the way that it does away with the rights of public participation in the planning process and right of redress to the courts, particularly as the reason for extinguishing these rights is solely due to the desire to have the Park complete by the centenary of World War I.