The path to a successful infrastructure-led recovery for New Zealand will require bold, decisive leadership from the next government and a willingness to invest now, says law firm Simpson Grierson
Its latest report, Infrastructure: review, reform and recover, assesses the impact of infrastructure-related initiatives progressed by the current government, and identifies additional reform needed to support New Zealand’s recovery.
Simpson Grierson partner, Josh Cairns, says accelerated infrastructure reform and investment should be a cornerstone of New Zealand’s recovery – both from the economic impact of Covid-19 and the impacts of the country’s long-standing infrastructure deficit.
“Decades of under-investment and inconsistent policy at central and local government levels, combined with significant population growth, has left us with an infrastructure deficit that continues to be a major issue – leading to a lack of affordable housing, inefficient transport networks and environmental degradation,” says Cairns.
“The current government has made good progress in putting in place more suitable institutions and structures to facilitate much needed infrastructure delivery, as well as one-off initiatives in response to Covid-19.
“We’d like to see the next government maximise these measures – a first step would be to ‘invest now’ by enlarging the ‘shovel-ready’ Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund and extending the limited lifespan of the Fast-Track Consenting legislation.”
Cairns says the post-election composition of the new government will undoubtedly affect some of the points of emphasis in the new measures, but, with all major parties supporting investment in infrastructure projects as a key part of the Covid-19 recovery response, the overall thrust will remain.
Among other measures, the next government should prioritise RMA reform, be open to using the full range of infrastructure funding options – including the Infrastructure Levy Model, and show meaningful engagement on the Three Waters Reform Programme, says Cairns.
“It will require collaboration – especially with local government – and a willingness to be bold, but an outcome that jump-starts the economic recovery, addresses a generational issue and improves the lives of all New Zealanders is there for the taking.”
Simpson Grierson’s infrastructure delivery wish list for the new government [see report for full details]
- Invest now – Enlarge and extend existing Covid-recovery measures (Response and Recovery Fund and Fast-Track Consenting)
- Offer direction – Through a special legislative case for major infrastructure in planning frameworks
- Act with urgency – Progress RMA reform as a priority
- Test new tools – Road-test the Infrastructure Levy Model on greenfields housing projects; work on its application in more challenging brownfields projects
- Build resilience – By promoting a fair, efficient and equitable contracting environment
- Entrust Te Waihanga – With the time and licence needed to positively influence infrastructure procurement
- Be bold – Explore new channels, like ‘value capture’, to fund the infrastructure deficit.
- Be resourceful – Review revenue policy settings to optimise the potential for private investment to help bridge the infrastructure deficit
- Embrace opportunity – Don’t miss the Three Waters opportunity – and engage meaningfully
- Think ahead – Further develop industry guidance on contract amendments – addressing Covid-19 issues and reflecting principles of the Construction Sector Accord