By Claire Edmondson, Chief Advisor, Infrastructure New Zealand
The government faces a critical test in infrastructure in the next five years that will burn as much financial capital and as much political goodwill as it can muster.
In the last few weeks, with the Climate Commission’s final advice to the government sitting in the Prime Minister’s in-tray and Te Waihanga’s draft 30-year strategy about to arrive in Grant Robertson’s inbox, it has become apparent the government is facing:
- A shortfall in capital to address the 30-year demands of New Zealand under climate change and Three Waters
- Pressure in the cities and regional centres where Three Waters makes sense in policy, but not necessarily politically
- Medium-term demands in public and private transport, with New Zealand Upgrade jumping nearly 30% in total capital in just 18 months.
The issue of climate change has very quickly taken centre stage. The extensive work of the Climate Change Commission has generated much debate and discussion. Infrastructure decisions will have a significant impact on climate change adaptation, mitigation and resilience. While the government has used the COVID-19 pandemic to justify canning some critical projects from the New Zealand Upgrade Programme, we are encouraged to see the Infrastructure Commission giving climate change serious consideration.
The Commission’s recent consultation document on a national infrastructure strategy has brought together several issues, such as climate change, that have previously been discussed either in isolation or in parallel to one another. The consultation document steers clear of taking a stand on some of the more gnarly matters. Nonetheless, to see issues like value capture and a population strategy being discussed in the same document is encouraging. It demonstrates an attempt at a holistic approach to addressing our infrastructure woes.
More immediately, 2021-2022 has shaped up to be a busy year, fast. We expect to see an exposure draft of the Natural and Built Environment Bill to be released in the third quarter for public submission potentially, work on the Strategic Planning and Climate Change Adaptation Bills will be initiated in some form, the Three Waters Review is gaining significant momentum, and there will be an opportunity to get involved in and influence the review into the future of local government.