Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones’ confirmation that the government will establish an independent infrastructure entity has been warmly received by industry
Both Infrastructure New Zealand and Civil Contractors New Zealand have come out in support of the government’s initiative to establish the i-body.
“The minister announced that a new entity would be created to provide expert advice, planning and strategy, support the delivery of major infrastructure projects across the country and act as the golden thread between the various pieces of work this government is undertaking, Infrastructure New Zealand CEO Stephen Selwood explains.
“The minister indicated the new entity will become a one-stop shop for investors, linking people to procuring entities and informing them about our regulatory and market settings.
He says this is a “major step forward” for the government and a wider sector challenged by long term pipeline uncertainty and procurement capability.
“The i-body will consolidate infrastructure expertise, creating a home for high calibre officials who can specialise in the procurement of highly complex public works,” Selwood says.
“We are particularly pleased that the minister confirmed that the i-body will have independence and strategic capability, meaning it will not only assist in the delivery of infrastructure, but provide advice to the government on key sector issues and help develop a whole-of-government project pipeline.
“A long-term sightline of what investments the government intends to make, noting there will always be changes in priorities and needs, is critical for the sector to invest in skills and equipment.”
Selwood notes that the Building Nations Symposium heard from experts from the UK and Australia, two countries which have recently adopted and rapidly expanded the i-body approach.
“The model has been very successful in these two countries at reducing waste, improving long-term decision making and supporting a much healthier and more competitive industry,” he observes.
“We expect that over the medium term, the i-body will lead a sustained improvement in the skills and capacity of infrastructure professionals within not only government, but the private sector too, as suppliers benefit from clearer direction, greater consistency and better risk allocation.
“This is a real opportunity to use the government’s scale to effect a true industry-wide transformation of the way we plan, fund, finance, deliver and operate critical services,” Selwood says.
Civil Contractors New Zealand also welcomed the announcement that a new independent infrastructure agency would be established to improve government oversight into the infrastructure and civil construction industry.
CCNZ Chief Executive Peter Silcock says a new entity to provide oversight could “potentially be of huge benefit”, helping to resolve recent uncertainty over coming workflow following the change of government transport and infrastructure priorities, as well as unifying the coming efforts to improve consistency and visibility in New Zealand’s infrastructure investment.
“The proposed new infrastructure agency has the potential to provide infrastructure pipeline visibility, certainty and prioritisation across government, as well as a clear and integrated action plan to deliver the pipeline”, Silcock believes.
“We hope the new agency will also provide a centre of procurement excellence to improve the quality and reduce the costs of procurement, leading to greater certainty for Kiwi civil contractors and better ability to invest in our people, plant and systems.”
He says because of these factors, the creation of the new agency would also have wider benefits for New Zealand, streamlining project delivery, ensuring projects were completed on time and on budget, and providing contractors more certainty around projects so they would be able to make more resource available for the employment and development of their staff.
The creation of this entity would come at a “critical juncture” for New Zealand, with coming plans for KiwiBuild and proposed record levels of investment in infrastructure, Silcock notes.
The delivery of critical community infrastructure water, transport, energy and communications must be a key strategic priority for this government, given its stated goals, he says.
“This is a critical time for New Zealand, with opportunities to achieve fantastic outcomes for our communities – or to squander more money than ever before,” Silcock insists.
“It is an essential time for government to work hand-in-hand with industry, and an independent agency can facilitate this.”