Day Three: Morning Session – Housing and Energy

 

Minister of Housing Hon Dr Megan Woods spoke to three of the most pressing crises we face – climate change, housing and the effects of Covid-19.

Minister Woods outlined the Government’s multi-faceted approach to housing. Priorities included supporting those most vulnerable through the Aotearoa Homelessness Action Plan 2020-2023, increasing the speed and scale of home building through the $3.8b Housing Acceleration Fund, and through build-to-rent schemes. She noted the upcoming Three Waters and broader resource management reforms would support this work by ensuring needed infrastructure was available.

The Minister highlighted the need for the building and construction sector to play its part in achieving New Zealand’s climate ambitions and noted the Government’s “Building for Climate Change” roadmap would both provide direction in the sector’s emissions reduction efforts and the work required to increase infrastructure adaptation and climate resiliency.

A Renewable Energy panel, facilitated by Andrew Kittle (Director – Loan Product, Corporate and Structured Finance, Westpac Institutional Bank) included panellists Nigel Clark (Chief Operations Officer, Genesis Energy), Cathy Clennett (Executive Director, Hiringa Energy), and Gary Holden (Managing Director, Lodestone Energy).

The panel noted that total emissions in New Zealand have increased 44% over the past 30 years, largely driven by transport, and that hydrogen was the main source of renewable energy at present, though particularly vulnerable to the risk from dry years. We need to either produce more (which is particularly costly) or develop an effective storage system to mitigate that risk.

Key renewable energy challenges included inertia to change, the funding and financing of new technologies, the clear line of sight to demand required, the need to consider the wider energy system in decarbonising, consumers’ demand for a resilient and reliant system, and the need to build local capacity given the challenges currently facing global supply chains.

Andrew Bayly, National MP – and at the time, Spokesperson for Infrastructure and Shadow Treasurer (Revenue) – presented National’s opposition address.

He highlighted the enormity of the infrastructure deficit and outlined that we will need to spend $31b a year over the next 30 years if we are to meet the country’s infrastructure needs. He suggested the major challenge was the Government’s failure to deliver infrastructure in a timely manner and for a reasonable price, ultimately leaving New Zealanders worse off.

Key takeaways included the need to explore alternative risk sharing arrangements and funding and financing streams given the constraints of the current Covid-19 environment. The sector was constrained and lacked capacity to complete multiple projects simultaneously and there was a need to be clear around plans and work pipelines to enable major contractors to resource appropriately and invest in their workforce.

He noted that Te Waihanga – the Infrastructure Commission’s work would contribute to developing this pipeline, but that a broader remit and greater authority was needed to enable it to lead the sector.

Minister for Transport and Workplace Relations and Safety Hon Michael Wood emphasised that transport was key to thriving cities and communities but at present, a lack of choice between transport options and routes was leading to longer journeys and increased emissions. He emphasised the Transport portfolio was not just about building roads, but also creating choice, increasing access and unlocking wider opportunities.

To meet these needs, the Government planned $5b of investment in public transport over the next three years, and $910m for shared pathways and alternative modes of transport. A number of key programmes and projects have been signalled, including Auckland Light Rail, the Waitemata Harbour Crossing and the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, as well as work looking towards rapid transit opportunities in Wellington and Christchurch.

 

Day Three: Afternoon Session – Diversity Session and Industry Best Practice

 

Arup’s Public Transport panel was facilitated by Mayurie Gunatilaka (NZ Group Leader, Arup) with panellists including Malcolm Smith (Australasian Cities Leader, Arup), Adrienne Young-Cooper (Chair, Auckland Transport), Rebecca Hollett (Rail Client Leader / Principal, Infrastructure Advisory, Aurecon), and Tommy Parker (Project Director, Auckland Light Rail).

Key takeaways included the reflection that too often, we focus on transport in isolation, rather than fully recognising its role in of good, healthy, inclusive, successful cities. The panel also highlighted that any approach to enhancing urban and transport outcomes required a multi-faceted approach with people at its centre.

Margaret Devlin, Chair of Infrastructure New Zealand, highlighted the importance of diversity to every aspect what the infrastructure industry.

She called on the industry to take decisive action that recognised diversity in all its forms, make diversity business-as-usual and recognise it for the value-add it offers and its potential to contribute significantly to the sector’s future success.

Dr Alia Bojilova (Partner, Propel Performance Group) discussed ‘The Value of Diverse Thinking’.

Alia noted we have known that diversity of thought provides significant competitive advantage for decades, and that leaders are cognisant of the substantial benefits it can bring to a wide range of highly performing teams and organisations.

However, the delivery and integration of these shifts have also delivered unintended negative outcomes. These included organisations conflating diverse thinking and diversity, and inviting diverse approaches to the table, while failing to enable people to influence and shape outcomes and not challenging thought biases and ingrained behaviours.

Alia emphasised the value of awareness, capability – with a specific focus on the importance of curiosity, belonging and drive as key characteristics of an environment that supports and enables diversity of thought.

The ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ panel was facilitated by Katrina van Houtte (Construction and Dispute Resolution Partner, Dentons Kensington Swan) with panellists including Nicky Smith (Business Development Manager, HEB Construction), Peter Reidy (Chief Executive, Fletcher Construction), Amy Barrett (General Manager, New Business and Commercial, Downer), Megan Main (Chief Executive, Accident Compensation Corporation), Gracen Luka (Chair, Emerging Talent Network; Associate Development Manager, Fletcher Living) and Simon Dyne (Chief Operating Officer, Infrastructure, Fulton Hogan).

Amy identified that a key challenge to diverse and effective recruitment was the image of the infrastructure industry, and its need to enable recruitment from a wider range of communities. Nicky noted that in her doctoral research, she found women were leaving the sector at higher rates than men because of a lack of career satisfaction due to a lack of influence and inclusion. Gracen reflected on the importance of purpose-driven work in recruiting a younger workforce.

The panel noted the structural challenges in the sector that discouraged retention of a diverse workforce due to the hours, facilities and flexibility available to professionals being less available to those with site-based roles.

Peter emphasised the key role that a bottom-up culture and clear values have to play in enabling retention and development – both at a site level and in an organisation’s leadership. Both Megan and Simon noted organisations can’t afford to entertain leaders and cultures that run counter to those efforts.

Geoff Cooper (General Manager, Strategy, New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga) spoke about the Commission’s Draft New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy. He reflected on the need to focus on the services and outcomes that infrastructure provides, rather than solely the assets themselves.

He noted key infrastructure trends that included different concentrations of an increasing population – including population decline in some areas, which might be even more difficult to address – our aging population, climate change, and uncertainty of demand projections.

To address these issues, Geoff highlighted the importance of not only funding, financing and building new infrastructure, but just as importantly, making better use of existing infrastructure.

The draft strategy makes 67 recommendations, including pricing options, a national population plan, the national priority list and a consolidated infrastructure fund. The draft strategy is currently with the Minister for review, with a final strategy expected to be tabled in Parliament early next year.

The political panel, on transport, was facilitated by NZME Editorial Director Fran O’Sullivan, joined by Hon Michael Wood, Hon Julie Anne Genter, Simon Court MP and David Bennett MP.

A lively debate reflected the general consensus on the need for public transport and transport decarbonisation, though parties tended to diverge on delivery.

The Minister focussed on a three-part plan toward better urban design, enabling mode shift and transport choices and improvements to our existing car fleet.

Hon Genter highlighted the enormous costs of continuing with the status quo and reflected on the failures of traditionally private vehicle-oriented planning.

National’s David Bennett emphasised the need to be pragmatic in addressing decarbonisation – noting the Government’s apparent aversion to roads didn’t support its commitment to electric vehicles.

Simon Court was clear that transport decision making should be depoliticised, and cost-benefit ratios more effectively prioritised when picking projects to invest in. He also highlighted the need for the project delivery to be much faster.

Hon Poto Williams (Minister for Building and Construction) presented the inaugural Beacons Award to the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC).

The award seeks to shine a light on good practice in the sector that others can learn from, and was accepted online by NPDC Chief Executive Craig Stevenson and Group Manager Planning and Infrastructure David Langford.

The winning project shifted the dial away from lowest cost tendering and toward the development of long-term partnerships to deliver better infrastructure for New Plymouth, while also delivering positive health and safety and training outcomes for supply chain partners.

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