The election campaign is finally beginning to heat up with a now steady stream of policy releases by all the political parties ahead of 14 October. The contest of ideas and different emphasis is refreshing. I’m sure many of us are processing what policy settings changes could lie ahead and what this will mean for the development of our infrastructure, regions, cities, and communities.

As part of our work to inform the sector of the choices, we are holding an Infrastructure-focused election debate in mid-September in Auckland in partnership with Stuff. Tova O’Brien, Chief Political Correspondent for Stuff Digital, will be facilitating this debate and it will be streamed live for those unable to attend in person. This is shaping up to be an unmissable event.

We are now into the final days of the current government term and Parliament has been under urgency as it seeks to pass the last pieces of legislation. Some has been significant and the culmination of nearly six years’ work, including the resource management replacement legislation, and the water services entity amendment legislation, which will establish 10 water entities and the rest of the features of the affordable water package. The durability of these pieces of legislation post-election remains unclear.

INZ continues to support these reforms. The status quo is not sustainable. Significant change is needed. The legislation that has just been passed is not perfect but it is progress. INZ is committed to supporting measures that improve how we plan, fund and deliver the critical infrastructure that Aotearoa needs. The implementation journey will inevitably require some further tweaks and amendments, and we are keen to tap into members’ experience as these changes come to fruition and ensure that the new regimes are workable, and that the sector’s voice continues to be heard by decision makers.

Over this past month or so, we have undertaken the following advocacy activities:

INZ submitted on Auckland Council’s draft development strategy for consultation in July. This strategy replaces its existing Auckland Plan 2050, Development Strategy 2018 and the Future Urban Land Supply Strategy 2017. INZ supports taking a strategic approach to planning for the growth of Tāmaki Makaurau that recognises the critical role of infrastructure in supporting the region’s development aspirations.

The success of this strategy depends on its implementation. Key points that we highlighted in our submission include investing flexibly for maximum benefit, the use of the full toolbox of funding and financing options, alignment with the full scope of infrastructure types required, use of non-built options and congestion charging, appropriate implementation into resource management plans, ongoing review of assumptions and use of new technology such as digital twins. Our submission is available here.

INZ also submitted on the Department for Prime Minister and Cabinet’s discussion document on strengthening critical infrastructure resilience. The document lays out how DPMC sees the coming challenges for our critical infrastructure assets. Themes range from cybersecurity threats – given the ever-increasing salience of technological advancements, climate change and increasing geopolitical instability, as well as related economic fragmentation.

In response to these ‘megatrends’, as well as a historical lack of coordination or a comprehensive approach to managing resilience in the past, DPMC proposes a potential move towards a regulatory regime, most likely with minimum standards and a focus on a shared understanding of critical infrastructure risks.

INZ supports the whole-of-system approach and DPMC’s work to build on recommendations out of Te Waihanga | the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission’s 30-year strategy and acknowledges that in many ways, New Zealand’s infrastructure is no longer fit for purpose.

We support progress on a regulatory regime, but note that enhanced standards must be met with increased resourcing for asset owners and operators, including councils and central government agencies with existing deficits. Improvements to local government and transport funding systems, and further consideration of funding and financing arrangements, including opportunities for private capital, will need to precede and support regulatory intervention, as will informed guidance for public and private sector owners and operators alike.

We also note the need for an increased focus on digital capability building across the infrastructure sector to support risk mapping and cyber resilience responses. Investment in digital capability in Government and a digitally enabling data provision environment will need to precede or be developed alongside increased regulation. Our full submission is available here.

In early August, INZ, along with other stakeholders, became most concerned at the delay in the release and consultation of the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS). The GPS is important for the sector as it outlines the Government’s priorities as it directs expenditure through the three-year National Land Transport Programme 2024-2027. The current NLTP allocates around $24 billion of government and local government expenditure.

INZ and Civil Contractors New Zealand jointly wrote to Transport Minister David Parker to express our concern at the delay and to convey to him the impact that this uncertainty was having on the sector. The delayed timing of the consultation on this will put added pressure on local governments as they try to meet statutory timeframes for the development of their year regional land transport plans.

This prompted the media to pick up on this issue and we would like to think that this contributed to the draft GPS being released for consultation on 17 August.

The Water Entities Services Bill was reported back from the select committee and is going through the committee of the whole House stage this week. This legislation amends the previously enacted legislation to reflect the Government’s ‘Affordable Water’ decisions. It provides for 10 entities and ensures that all territorial authorities have representation on the regional representative group.

INZ released its third tranche of its policy position papers covering pipeline certainty, climate resilient infrastructure and digital. You can read more about this release in this edition of InfraRead.

INZ has maintained its media presence over the past month on a number of topics consistent with our strategic priorities. We issued a media release urging urgent action to establish a guaranteed infrastructure pipeline. INZ also supported the Government’s announcement of the second crossing of the Waitematā Harbour in Auckland, including the proposed light rail tunnel to the North Shore.

Our previous NZ Herald opinion piece on private sector financing was referenced in a later article on public-private-partnerships and different procurement arrangements. INZ also highlighted the delay in the Environment Court decision on the extension of the Port of Tauranga wharf, which it considers to be a national priority.

There was media coverage of our Chair Tracey Ryan’s presentation to Te Waka and its members in Waikato. INZ also indicated its support for the recently announced National Party’s policy, including the proposed National Infrastructure Agency and extending the National Land Transport Programme investment timeframe. The media also reported on the Federated Farmers Conference session where Policy Director Michelle McCormick had facilitated a panel discussion in climate resilient infrastructure in the recovery of the flooding and cycle recovery.