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Column - let's keep the politicians honest

28 Jul 2023


There are now just under 80 days until the general election, and political parties are starting to make their policy announcements.

Expect the usual lolly-scramble of promises. With respect to infrastructure, we heard the government has committed $71 billion to infrastructure investment over the next five years via the budget, and about $6b for cyclone recovery and resilience.

We hear these promises time and time again, but how much of what is promised actually turns into committed and funded projects? I sometimes wonder if civil infrastructure construction has been replaced by the idea of civil infrastructure construction. The critical thing should be what gets built, maintained or renewed. And the results, value and return we get from that investment as a nation.

We know New Zealand has a massive infrastructure deficit (about $210 billion according to Infrastructure Commission estimates). We know massive investment in cyclone recovery and rebuild is needed. And yet we also know councils are struggling to fund delivery of infrastructure capital and maintenance to their communities, with many actually cutting back programmes due to budget pressures. This only exacerbates the issue, and a lack of investment now will cost considerably more in the medium to long term.

We know government reforms have created uncertainty and instability in the market. Many of these are focussed on reshaping the construction industry or how we build things, rather than actually building anything. And we also know delays in government policy are undermining key assets such as roads.

Take the Government Policy Statement for Land Transport, which sets out funding terms and objectives for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and local government to build and maintain the roading network, and is now months overdue. The review of road user charges has seemingly been in limbo for a year and a half, as has an ongoing revenue review. So, earlier this week, I wrote to the new Minister of Transport in a joint letter with Infrastructure NZ requesting clarification of the government's intentions.

Opposition parties have released their own infrastructure policies. But again, they are heavy on concepts and light on how they will tangibly provide confidence of a short-, medium-, and long-term programme of committed and funded projects to the market. If opposition parties want to run the country, they need to prove they are ready to do so.

You will see us being more vocal about this during the lead up to the election. Our advocacy focusses on ensuring all members regardless of size, location, or specialty, can have more confidence in the programme of work ahead, and the road ahead for their businesses.

It is not good enough to simply talk about constructing NZ's infrastructure. Now is the time to do something about it. So, let's let the government, opposition, and councils know that loud and clear.

Kind regards

Alan Pollard
Chief Executive, Civil Contractors New Zealand

 

 

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