It has been an exciting month that started with the growing trickle of pre-Budget announcements being served up ahead of Budget Day on 18 May. Unsurprisingly infrastructure has had a big focus as the government allocates funds to address the devastating effects of the Auckland flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle. The INZ Policy team joined the Parliament Budget lock up and to digest the numbers and analyse what it means for the sector.
It has continued to be another busy month on the policy and advocacy front outside of the Budget too. Public consultation is still underway on many issues relevant to the infrastructure sector at both national and local levels. While we haven’t submitted on individual local government annual plans, we have been watching how councils are facing up to the growing gap between their aspirations and maintaining affordable rates for their communities. The current inflationary environment has added to the difficult job councils already had of making trade-offs which have a direct impact on their communities. The Review into the Future for Local Government’s final report is due next month. It is hoped that the report’s recommendations, particularly those around alternative funding streams, can be acted upon quickly.
He Pou a Rangi / Climate Change Commission has released its 2023 draft advice to inform the strategic direction of the Government’s second Emission Reduction Plan with submission closing on 20 June. The Commission’s final advice is required to be delivered to the Minister of Climate Change by 31 December 2023. The draft recommendations build on the initiatives already underway through the Government’s first Emission Reduction Plan that was released last year. This second emissions budget period 2026-2030 is critical and the progress made here will ultimately determine whether New Zealand can meet its climate change objectives or not. The provision of advice on the next steps we need to take to reduce emissions does seem a little out of sync, especially as the Commission’s monitoring report on the first emissions budget period and our progress towards the 2050 zero emissions target is not due until mid-2024. We have also seen a number of the initiatives within the current Emissions Reduction Plan either scrapped or had their implementation delayed. The impacts of climate change are now being felt much more regularly, there can be no let up in both our mitigation efforts, and now an increasing focus on adaptation.
Over this past month we have undertaken the following activities.
- Developed and released our second tranche of policy position papers which will act as a starting point for forthcoming conversations about the state of play in our industry ahead of the election. Read more about these in the article later in this InfraRead edition.
- We submitted on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) discussion document on Enabling Investment in Offshore Renewable Energy. While this form of renewable energy generation is new for New Zealand, there is a lot of experience to draw on internationally. INZ agrees that the investigation phase should be developer led. However, we consider there is a role for Government to play as a coordinator to ensure that investment in this sector is successful and to support this to help NZ meet its emission targets.
- Continuing the focus on decarbonisation, we also submitted on the MBIE/ Ministry of Transport (MoT) Charging our Future Strategy. Having made the point that the funding issue needed to be resolved, it is good to see funding of $120m allocated in the Budget to help bring this strategy to reality in partnership with private sector providers.
- Consultation on transport projects and plans continue to be a focus with a submission made on both options for a new Auckland Harbour Crossing, and to Auckland Council ahead of their development of the Auckland Integrated Transport Plan. Our submission on the Plan outlines how the lack of funding commitments accompanying these announcements continues to be perpetuated.
- We are also expecting the Draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport to be issued for consultation any day. It will be particularly interesting to see how the shrinking revenue streams to the National Land Transport Fund is addressed, and how sufficient funding for ongoing asset maintenance of both the State highway and local roading networks is addressed.