Independent infrastructure body major focus of Building Nations infrastructure conference


The importance and value of arm’s length infrastructure advice to government to assist infrastructure decision-making will be the keynote topic at this year’s Building Nations Symposium, says Infrastructure New Zealand CEO Stephen Selwood

Katie Black from the National Infrastructure Commission in the UK, Jim Betts from Infrastructure NSW, Michael Masson from Infrastructure Victoria, Allan Garcia from Infrastructure Tasmania and Anna Chau from Infrastructure Australia will all be discussing national infrastructure leadership and strategy on Day 2 of the conference.

“McKinsey Global Institute has found that up to 40% of infrastructure spending globally is not spent effectively because of issues with infrastructure strategy, governance and capability.”

The potential gains for New Zealand are significant, Selwood claims.

“Even just a 5% improvement achieved through good project selection, streamlined delivery and optimising assets could generate $5 billion in added value on the $100 billion infrastructure investment that is planned over the next ten years.

“With such large demands on transport, water and social infrastructure up and down the country, putting in place the measures to support improved strategic capability and procurement must be a priority.

“Each of the political systems closest to ours – Australia, the UK and Canada – have achieved significant improvements in infrastructure efficiency with arm’s length centralised infrastructure agencies.”

He notes that entities like Infrastructure Australia and the UK National Infrastructure Commission provide strategic advice to government decision makers and help build public consensus and bi-partisan political support on long-term infrastructure needs and challenges.

“Organisations like the Scottish Futures Trust, Infrastructure Ontario and the “I-bodies” in Australia support central and local infrastructure providers to deliver complex projects efficiently, helping to reduce the chance of cost blowouts and improving joined-up thinking with other public providers.

These bodies bring together the best expertise from the public and private sectors to support multiple projects at any one time up and down the country, Selwood says.

“The combination of hands-on infrastructure delivery expertise with long-term strategic planning consolidated in a single independent infrastructure body can help New Zealand meet its growth challenge.

“Giving the body arm’s length independence from a defined Ministry frees up officials from reporting and administration and allows them to focus on making operational improvements.

“Decision-making always remains with responsible ministers, mayors and other infrastructure leaders, but they all can benefit from improved advice and support from career professionals who understand infrastructure,” Selwood says.

Building Nations is New Zealand’s largest annual infrastructure industry conference and will take place at the Viaduct Events Centre in Auckland on August 16-17.