Cook Strait ferry trips are to become more eco-friendly but trans-Tasman flights (to NSW, temporarily) become less inviting

Travel on the ferries between the North and South Islands is to become more eco-friendly, helped by the fast-tracking of the consent process for the upgrade of the Picton terminal.  

Quarantine-free travel between New South Wales and New Zealand, on the other hand, is being paused – albeit temporarily.

Further bulletins from the Beehive bring news of more houses being built and of changes to our immigration regulations to deal with issues related to Covid-19 are being extended.

Eco-friendly Cook Strait voyages

Picton ferry terminal upgrade consent fast-tracked

The planned upgrade of the Picton Ferry terminal has been approved by an expert consenting panel under the fast-track consenting process.  Imagine what progress would have been made had Resource Management Act demands been met. 

The Waitohi Picton Ferry Precinct Redevelopment Project involves the construction of new terminal infrastructure, roads, seawalls, culverts, and an overbridge. The application documents “signalled” more than 200 jobs would be created (which means these jobs are not necessarily promised) during the  construction period.

The upgrade will enable Picton to accommodate larger, more eco-friendly ferries which will be more fuel-efficient, kinder on the environment and support New Zealand’s transition to the low-emissions economy, Environment Minister David Parker said.

The current fleet of Interislander ferries, nearing the end of their life, will be replaced by two larger rail-enabled ferries by the mid-2020s. The new ferries will be able to take up to 45 per cent more passengers and freight.

The redevelopment will accommodate the berthing of other ships.

More information about the decision is on the EPA website. Information about other applications for fast-tracking through the Order in Council process is on the Ministry for the Environment website.

Oh, no – back into quarantine 

Quarantine Free Travel with New South Wales paused

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced a pause in Quarantine Free Travel from New South Wales to New Zealand while the source of infection of the two cases in Sydney is investigated.

Information about locations of interest visited by the cases is available on the New South Wales health website: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/covid-19/Pages/case-locations-and-alerts.aspx

New South Wales has put in place its own restrictions (details are available at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/news-and-media)

The Government insists it is aware this will cause some disruption to travellers but strongly believes a cautious approach is bestwhile investigations continue.

Keeping the rules bent for longer  

Covid-19 immigration powers to be extended

The rules have been bent but for good reasons, the government contends.  

In the past year it has extended visas, varied visa conditions and waived some application requirements across entire visa categories to provide more flexibility and certainty to visa holders and employers in New Zealand and make more migrants available for industries facing labour shortages. .

The Immigration (COVID-19 Response) Amendment Act 2021 was passed by Parliament yesterday to maintain those powers until 2023.

The Minister of Immigration has used the powers to benefit classes of migrants 19 times, including:

  • Extending visas for 22,500 workers and family members, to give more certainty to them and their employers.
  • Providing 5,600 offshore resident visa holders with more time to come to New Zealand and activate their visa.
  • Extending 16,600 visitor visas, to give people more time to secure ways to return home, and providing all visitors the opportunity to study or attend school while here.
  • Extending 7,800 working holiday visas, and easing conditions, to allow holders to work in industries like horticulture.
  • Waiving certain application requirements for transit passengers.

He exercised his powers again on Monday to exempt around 5,500 Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers already in New Zealand from the need to take a day off work to undertake a chest x-ray before they apply for their next visa.

Hurrah – more houses on the way

Building consent numbers at an all-time high

Fresh figures from Statistics New Zealand show the number of new homes consented in the year ended March 2021 is at an all-time high of 41,028, due to an increase in consents for higher-density housing.

In March, 4,128 new homes were consented – the highest number since the 1940s.

Building and Construction Minister Poto Williams gives some of the credit for this to the Construction Sector Accord, a joint commitment between government and industry to lift the performance of the construction sector.  This served as a platform to provide coordinated leadership and collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Then there’s the Construction Skills Action Plan.  Initiatives through this enabled more than 9,300 people to take up education or employment opportunities in the construction sector since 2018

The recently announced Housing Acceleration Fund aims to help address some of the underlying barriers to housing supply, further increasing the pace and scale of nation-wide housing delivery.

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