2022 – Infrastructure: Building better resilience

Infrastructure New Zealand’s major summit Building Nations is back with their first face-to-face conference since 2020.
The two-day conference – which sold out last week – starts in Wellington this morning.

There will be an array of first-class speakers ranging from Cabinet Ministers, through to Members of Parliament and a group of newly elected and re-elected mayors who will join participants from the public and private sectors to debate and discuss the future of New Zealand.

Among the Ministers addressing Building Nations are: Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who also holds the Infrastructure portfolio; Minister for the Environment David Parker, who has just introduced two new bills to reform and replace the Resource Management Act; Climate Change Minister James Shaw, fresh from COP 27 in Egypt; Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, who is shepherding through the controversial Three Waters reforms; and Transport Minister Michael Wood, who has just begun public consultation on a second harbour crossing for New Zealand’s major growth city – Auckland.

As Infrastructure New Zealand says, there has never been a more pressing time in this country to focus on how we are going to build, upgrade and maintain the infrastructure needed to see us through the next three decades.

This year, Building Nations 2050 will look to the theme of resilience to design a system that can effectively deliver on the commitments the Government and the sector have made. The group says: “We will look back from the vantage point of 2050 when we will have hopefully delivered on the first New Zealand infrastructure strategy, achieved net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and be reaping the benefits of a suite of structural reforms.”

To add some context: New Zealand currently faces an infrastructure deficit which has been put at around $210 billion. There is significant cost-escalation for projects within an inflationary environment, and supply chain issues remain a problem. There are estimates New Zealand will have a shortfall of 118,500 construction workers in 2024 – all of which adds to the problems of establishing a sustainable pipeline of infrastructure projects.

Within the Herald’s Infrastructure Report, Infrastructure New Zealand’s policy director Michelle McCormick spells out that our current approach to funding and financing infrastructure is not working. She suggests a greater partnership approach between the Government and the private sector would enhance delivery capability and help transfer appropriate key risks of deliverability to the private sector as well as the ability to implement multiple infrastructure projects simultaneously.

To illustrate the complexity, Te Waihanga (the Infrastructure Commission) chief executive Ross Copland points out achieving a net-zero carbon economy is in large part an infrastructure problem, requiring renewable energy development equivalent to building a Clyde Dam every year for the next 30. Te Waihanga has released New Zealand’s first long-term Infrastructure Strategy which will be responded to with an action plan from Government in the near term.

In the meantime, renewable projects are under way such as Lodestone Energy’s large-scale solar power station which is being debt funded by Westpac, as Reuben Tucker outlines today.

Engineering firm Aecom has developed a method to estimate the carbon impact in infrastructure projects, and Tonkin and Taylor’s James Hughes tells Graham Skellern there needs to be more intensive living in cities to help us head off climate change impacts.
Addressing New Zealand’s Infrastructure challenges is not a simple matter, says GHD’s David Norman, who underlines that New Zealand is competing on a world scale not only for labour but for the materials and even the machinery needed to build infrastructure projects.

Auckland Light Rail’s recently appointed chief executive, Tommy Parker, spells out the case for light rail is strong and it’s not a recent whim. And Auckland Business Chamber CEO Simon Bridges comes up with five ways to fix the city’s transport.

The Herald also takes a look at what is happening in the vital digital architecture space with interviews with AWS’s Tiffany Bloomquist on the company’s major investment in cloud computing data centres in New Zealand and Entelar’s Rajesh Singh over plans to build 5G and fibre networks to underpin new digital technologies.

Back to Building Nations: A key focus of this week’s conference is New Zealand’s huge infrastructure deficit. There has never been a more pressing time to focus on how we are going to build, upgrade and maintain the infrastructure needed to see us through the next three decades.

Additional areas of focus include climate change and sustainable infrastructure, skills and retention, diversity, the range of reform programmes under way and the sustainable funding and financing of infrastructure. Central to discussions will be the challenge to create a system resilient to shocks and able to adapt to and anticipate key barriers to achieving our shared ambitions.

It will be a compelling two days for the sector.

Enjoy the report.

Fran O’Sullivan
Executive Editor



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