More detail needed to provide project confidence
The Government’s budget announcement of an increased infrastructure investment to $71 billion over five years has potential to deliver results, says the CCNZ, but investment must come with more certainty around the work programme ahead and focus on the work at hand.
Association chief executive Alan Pollard welcomes the new National Resilience Plan, which has an initial funding pool of $6b and a $279m investment package for State Highways that focusses on slip prevention, flood mitigation and managing risks.
However more detail around the work is needed to give civil contractors the confidence they need to invest in new and emerging technologies, and to invest in hiring and training staff. Because of this, it was important they could have confidence in a consistent pipeline of work.
“The work that civil contractors do underpins all other parts of the construction sector, so the focus on a clearly defined and well-funded programme of work is essential if we are serious about tackling our infrastructure challenges.”
It was all too common to see infrastructure budgets remain unspent due to holdups from changes to design, delivery, and administration, says Pollard, and funding is needed to finance tangible work on the ground, rather than growing the amount of government administration, he said.
“As a country, we have a lot of catching up to do. A commitment for $71b in infrastructure investment over five years can enable a lot of good work. We need to make sure it leads to actual work on the ground and leads to productive outcomes.
“There are also a lot of distractions out there, so we need to make sure our people and companies can focus on their core task of construction to achieve the good outcomes infrastructure delivers in terms of healthy, prosperous and well-connected communities.”
Infrastructure New Zealand says we continue to miss opportunities in infrastructure delivery through solely relying on the Government to fund improvements.
“We are just not going hard or fast enough with action plans, instead of actual, properly funded, action.”
While the agency says it welcomes the new National Resilience Plan, and partnership with the private sector to invest in the EV charging network, New Zealand badly needs to access private capital to inject into a sustainable building plan for our infrastructure.
“We continue to call on all political parties to think long term about infrastructure decision making and steer away from politicking around projects and investments.
“A pipeline of essential work should be guaranteed outside of election cycles and budgets, with funding locked in.
“That way, the sector can prepare a workforce and have the kind of skills on hand to make these builds a reality.”
The National Resilience Plan was a necessary response to the cyclones, but the initial impact will be limited as the focus is properly on long-term infrastructural development, with many details yet to be worked out. The $71 billion package, funded largely by borrowing, is substantial but there must be questions about the national capacity to deliver, given current labour market conditions, and immigration settings. Peter Dunne.
Roading deficit remains
The 2023 Budget does not address the long-term funding deficit caused by decades of under-investment in the roading network, says Justin Tighe-Umbers, CEO, National Road Carriers (NRC).
“As a country we don’t have the luxury of focusing on the nice to haves. If the recent cyclone and flooding has shown us one thing it’s how we urgently need to get the basics right. In terms of roading we need to focus on the three R’s – Resilience, Rebuild and Restorative maintenance.”
The roading resilience budget of $279 million is a good start, he adds, but building resilience into the roading network is critical to reducing the impact of future weather events. The $275 million, on top of the initial $250 million, to address the immediate problems is welcomed, he adds, but it is not enough to restore the network to its pre-cyclone state.
“For example, the 11 temporary Bailey bridges will do the job short-term reconnecting communities, but they still need to be replaced with resilient long-term infrastructure that will stand up to future climate events.
“There are no clear plans in the Budget for how the government plans to address the long-standing roading infrastructure and restorative maintenance deficit.
“NRC looks forward to continuing to work with government on the upcoming Government Policy Statement (GPS) for Land Transport to address this issue. We’re calling for the GPS to provide concrete measures that address the decades of under-investment in our roading network,” says Tighe-Umbers.