By Claire Edmondson, Infrastructure New Zealand Chief Executive

Back in October last year, the Infrastructure Commission released the draft New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy. The substantial consultation process included Infrastructure New Zealand workshops around the country, which enabled members to provide direct input.

We are now waiting for the Government to table the final New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy in Parliament, following which the Government will have six months to respond to the strategy’s recommendations, getting the ball rolling on implementing the strategy and its recommendations. Hon Grant Robertson, in his capacity as Minister for Infrastructure, is responsible for leading the Government’s response to the strategy.

To recap, the draft 30-year plan set out a vision but also highlighted challenges showing we need to improve our system for planning and building infrastructure, and also make better use of what we already have. The draft strategy contained 67 recommendations to local and central government and the infrastructure sector, many of which sought to address known issues, with work already underway on some, including resource management reform, emissions reduction and a national digital strategy. To my mind, even though the draft strategy relitigated some known issues, it did well in bringing together several linked issues that are often discussed in isolation to one another.

I was particularly encouraged by the recommendation of an independent infrastructure priority list to build consensus around key projects and initiatives that address significant long-term problems. This would enable the sector to ensure it has the appropriate resources and supply chain to compete for and deliver this work.

I was also pleased with the recommendation for a national infrastructure skills plan to ensure we have the right people with the right skills to develop our infrastructure in the medium to long-term.

These are the sorts of things that provide the certainty needed for the infrastructure sector to get on with the job of making New Zealand a better place for us all. We need the Government to take them on board and implement them in a timely way. The adoption of the New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy should be a key catalyst to addressing our national infrastructure deficit.

It’s worthwhile remembering that the strategy’s success will depend on the buy-in of local and central government and the infrastructure sector. Having a well-written, well-intentioned, objective strategy is one thing, but if it lacks buy-in, it won’t achieve much.

There’s another critical success factor – the need for the strategy to be responsive and remain relevant. It will need to be a living document that’s updated periodically. I’m still in two minds whether updating it once every five years would be enough. I’m also a strong advocate for a monitoring and implementation framework that will not only track implementation to make sure we do what we say, but also feed into the strategy’s updates.

My introductory remarks in this edition highlighted the four key concerns that came out of Building Nations 2021, and the New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy touches on all of them. To say that the Infrastructure Strategy’s success means the infrastructure sector’s success is no understatement, and New Zealand needs and deserves world-class infrastructure.

I’m looking forward to the tabling of the New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy in Parliament in the near future. The implications for the infrastructure sector and, more broadly our social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing are monumental. We’ll be just as keen on the Government’s response and will be holding it to account.