We are into the election home straight now, with just over two weeks left of campaigning. It has been encouraging to see that the topic of infrastructure has featured prominently in election campaigns. All political parties want to build a better Aotearoa New Zealand, and infrastructure is rightly seen as a critical platform for improving our economy, our regions and cities, our communities, and our daily lives.
Surprisingly, in the past month or so, a tsunami of government consultation has been released. It appears the bottleneck of the policy pipeline has been eased at the last minute with significant consultation commencing on a package released by MBIE on energy transition, the long-awaited draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport (GPS), Parliament’s inquiry into climate adaptation, as well as potential changes to the National Policy Statement (NPS) on Highly Productive Land to enable infrastructure such as solar farms and infrastructure and consultation on a proposed NPS on Natural Hazard Decision-Making.
The INZ team has been busy working through the consultation materials and preparing submissions. While this parliamentary term may be over, it is important that engagement on key issues affecting infrastructure continues. We have also been focused on finalising the next tranche of our policy position papers and our INZ Election 2023 Priorities which serve as a manifesto for the infrastructure sector.
Over this past month or so, we have undertaken the following advocacy and engagement activities:
- We have released our manifesto, or election priorities document ahead of the election as outlined previously.
- In August, INZ wrote jointly with NZ Civil Contractors to Minister Parker jointly to highlight the impact that the delayed draft GPS on Land Transport was having on the infrastructure sector. So it was pleasing to see the draft GPS released for consultation a couple of weeks later. INZ made a submission on the draft GPS but we may well be needing to make another submission on a second draft GPS after the election. See our article later in this issue for more details.
- INZ’s policy position on digital infrastructure was the topic of discussion at a recently held event hosted by INZ member Reveal, in Wellington. The panel discussion highlighted some of the international experience where the increasing deployment of digital data has been driven by waste minimisation requirements. There was a plea too to socialise data opportunities with a wider range of potential customers. Who would have known that the fibre optic cables providing our internet services are also providing a way to monitor seismic events as well as providing valuable traffic counts and weight information in real time? A lesson in the value of collected data beyond its immediate owners. The issue of data stewardship was commented on by all panelists who agreed it needs to be resolved. The case for an accelerated implementation and national level scaling of digital tools was also highlighted in a recent IT Professionals blog article. It is encouraging to see the conversation around infrastructure data gain some momentum.
- We are finalising an original research piece with Infometrics which examines the cost to New Zealand of not having a certain infrastructure development pipeline. INZ will hold events to launch this report and discuss the findings with a panel of sector leaders in the coming months.
- With the enactment of the Natural and Built Environment and the Spatial Planning Acts last month, the sector is quickly shifting into implementation mode. One of the critical lessons learnt from the implementation of the Resource Management Act 1991 was the need to adequately resource the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to lead this work and provide the assistance that councils and other stakeholders need to transition to the new framework. MfE has been undertaking some preliminary work to examine the practice shifts needed for a successful resource management and planning system, particularly since there will be a much greater upfront focus on strategic aspects through the development of spatial plans. INZ was interviewed for this research and is keen to ensure the sector continues to contribute to the implementation work.
- INZ, with the assistance of our policy intern, Hannah Pickard, has been progressing the development of an ecosystem map of the various obligations and requirements pertaining to sustainable infrastructure. We are also keeping a watching brief on the new Australian initiative that has just been launched. Infrastructure Net Zero was initiated by a collective involving the Australian Federal Government, Infrastructure Australia, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, and the Infrastructure Sustainability Council among others. It aims to bring together key stakeholders across all sectors and asset classes to coordinate, collaborate and report on infrastructure’s pathway to net zero.