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09:38, Feb 03 2009

The prime minister is poised to announce a $1 billion plan to boost the economy and measures to ease the pain of the recession on smaller businesses as he steps up the rollout of his recovery plan.
View video: RMA ready for a shakeup

Sweeping changes to the Resource Management Act were unveiled yesterday, designed to help fast-track big projects with economic spinoffs, and John Key will detail business tax changes today that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars to small and medium-sized businesses.

Further elements of the package, including more spending on roads, housing, the electricity grid, schools and hospitals, will be introduced in coming weeks, ahead of a jobs summit on February 27, touted as a forum for ideas to stem rising unemployment.

Meanwhile, the Government has asked councils to present it with a list of priority projects to be brought forward.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast confirmed the region's local body chief executives would meet tomorrow to go through the list. It had projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, including roads, public transport, cycling and walking lanes.

The Government was stung by criticism during the summer break that it was doing too little, as other countries' governments announced multibillion-dollar packages to help claw their economies out of recession.


Mr Key is likely to come under more pressure after Australia announced a A$42 billion (NZ$52.8 billion) spend-up on schools, roads and housing yesterday and a A$950 tax bonus for many workers. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised "to move heaven and earth to try and support growth".

Finance Minister Bill English is expecting growth on this side of the Tasman to be "at best flat and probably shrink" this year.

Mr Key confirmed that spending on some projects, which had resource consent, would be brought forward. The changes to the Resource Management Act would help to fast-track further approvals.

Other areas to be targeted for spending included house insulation, which would offer health, social and environmental benefits, as well as jobs.

Mr English, who is in Australia today for talks with Treasurer Wayne Swan, said spending would rise, though the increase would not be in the billions "at the moment".

He has argued that interest rate cuts, the previous government's tax and spending plans from the 2008 Budget, and his own tax cuts provided a high level of economic stimulation compared with packages in other countries.

Economic recovery was "hopefully six to 12 months away", he said, but debt would have risen significantly by then.


Major projects the Government says were delayed by the Resource Management Act:

* Wellington inner-city bypass: Design approved by Transit and Wellington City Council in 1992, but not opened till 2007.

* Project West Wind, Makara: Councils granted consents within six months, but the Environment Court took a further 18 months to confirm them.

* Wairau Pak 'n Save: Proposed in the 1990s, with consents granted several times but appealed. The supermarket has been built but is not operating because of litigation.

* Whangamata marina: Proposed in 1995, but awaiting a final decision after the High Court directed then conservation minister Chris Carter to set aside his veto.


The Dominion Post