Unsurprisingly, infrastructure issues have remained top of mind following Building Nations. This focus on our sector looks set to continue as infrastructure will remain high on the political agenda as we head to the election in October.
We have recently seen a flurry of activity from the Government ahead of the mandatory pre-election shutdown period. This has seen a wave of work by select committees, often with some crazily condensed consultation and reporting timeframes.
Over this past month or so we have undertaken the following advocacy activities:
- INZ submitted on He Pou a Rangi / the Climate Change Commission’s draft advice to inform the strategic direction of the Government’s second Emissions Reduction Plan. We focused our submission on the need for urgency in meeting our obligations in emissions budget periods two and three and the need for our consenting, political and funding systems to come together to support that effort.
We considered the importance of certainty for the sector and the opportunities to build on successful public and private sector partnerships to drive emissions reductions and looked at the proposed changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) at a high level. We also responded to many of the key recommendations for the transport, infrastructure, waste and energy sectors within the advice, emphasising the need to improve consenting frameworks for renewable energy generation, to prioritise transit oriented development through increased certainty and accelerated delivery timelines for major transport projects and recommend that the Commission provide more detailed final advice around retrofits, funding and financing arrangements and labour force considerations through the transition to a low-emissions economy. In the context of the Prime Minister’s “policy bonfire” earlier in the year, we’re hoping to see the Government engage meaningfully with the Commission’s final advice and for it to support the Commission’s role as an independent advisory body to give certainty to both the sector and the public.
- INZ supports the Construction Sector Accord and the delivery of its Transformation Plan 2.0. As part of these activities, INZ made a submission to Standards New Zealand on their consultation for Contract NZS 3910. It is great to see a full review of a key component supported by the sector, and some significant improvements proposed to the contracting documents which reflect best practice but also actual industry practice and the modernisation of terminology. Having tools, like the standard contract, which allow a reasonable approach and aid industry collaboration should result in fewer disputes down the track which has got to be a win for the whole sector.
- The Water Entities Services bill has had a very short public consultation period as the government races to get their “Affordable Water” reform passed before the election. This latest bill amends the previously enacted legislation to reflect the Government’s decision to now have 10 entities and to ensure that all territorial authorities have representation on the regional representative group. INZ’s submission on the bill is available here . We are disappointed with the loss of economies of scale that the previous four entity model would have delivered but we consider that the reforms still need to be progressed urgently so we can start to get the long-term investment in critical water infrastructure that is so badly needed across the motu. The Environment Select Committee has also just reported back on the two earlier bills, the Water Services Legislation Bill and the Water Services Economic Efficiency and Consumer Protection Bill. This space has certainly gotten very messy with multiple further amendments to already amended legislation.
It has also been the season for reports on various government bills, reviews and inquiries but the timing of this, so late in the Parliamentary term, means most are unlikely to progress any further now. One of these policy reform areas left for the next government to make decisions on is the final report by the review panel on the Future for Local Government. INZ submitted on this and also spoke to some of the team supporting the review prior to the report’s publication. The report makes some really important recommendations critical to the sustainability and success of local government going forward. Our media release called on the next government to take a serious look at the report and re-engage with the sector as they look to take this forward. It was also nice to see that the connections with the Productivity Commission’s report – A fair go for all made the final report.
The Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee has also now reported back on their Inquiry into Regional Passenger Rail and have made a number of recommendations for the Government now to consider. There is an opportunity for passenger rail to play a larger role in our transport network and this needs to feature in the next National Rail Plan. The scoping studies proposed for some inter-regional rail services will need to be considered by the government, but big questions remain about the funding of these aspirations – a question that the report hasn’t answered.
The Resource management reform legislation has now been reported back on by the Environment Select Committee. The Spatial Planning Bill report can be found here and the Natural and Built Environment Bill report can be read here. There are more than 1200 pages to digest with dissenting views of National and Act included! Many amendments proposed by submitters, including INZ, have been taken on and incorporated now. The legislation still remains complex and we are not confident it will allow the efficient development of infrastructure that is required to address our climate change challenge.
We are still waiting to see the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS) which seems to have disappeared into a Cabinet blackhole. The new Minister of Transport, Hon David Parker, has recently emphasised that the final GPS is only legally required to be in place by 30 June 2024. 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 Regional Land Transport Plans. Even with the end of the cost-of-living discounts on both fuel excise duty and Road User Charges and the introduction of road user charges for electric vehicles from 1 April 2024, the revenue challenges remain for the National Land Transport Fund.