Infrastructure Commission releases first long-term strategy

Chief executive Ross Copland said the strategy showed more of the same simply would not cut it.
Chief executive Ross Copland said the strategy showed more of the same simply would not cut it. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Electricity generation, water services and responding to sea level rise are some of the priority investments identified in the Infrastructure Commission's first strategy.

The report by Te Waihanga / New Zealand Infrastructure Commission makes 68 recommendations, compiled over two years after consulting with over 20,000 New Zealanders, with more than 700 consultation submissions, and meetings and workshops across the country.

Te Waihanga was set up in 2019 with a mission of transforming infrastructure for New Zealanders, lifting economic performance and improving wellbeing in New Zealand.

Chief executive Ross Copland said the strategy showed more of the same simply would not cut it, and significant investment would be needed to meet New Zealand's needs.

"Electricity generation capacity needs to increase by some 170 percent to meet our net zero carbon goals; while it will cost about $90 billion to fix New Zealand's water networks. Some $5 billion of local government infrastructure is vulnerable to sea level rise," he said.

"These challenges come at a time when construction costs are rising 60 percent faster than prices elsewhere in the economy and we expect a shortfall of 118,500 construction workers in 2024."

Recommendations include:

  • Achieving net-zero emissions at minimum cost, and leveraging renewable energy resources

  • Using tools like congestion charging on busy roads

  • Increase housing with accessible infrastructure, using minimum levels of upzoning and mixed-use zoning to enable urban development

  • Allowing for water meters to manage demand and encourage water conservation

  • Preparing infrastructure for the impacts of climate change

  • Waste reduction, particularly for products that can't be recycled

  • Increasing technology use, including real-time infrastructure data, to help plan and maintain

  • Standardised planning policy across New Zealand, ensuring cities plan for significant growth

  • Streamline consenting processes particularly for projects of national importance, and reduce regulatory burden on construction materials

  • Providing greater certainty for businesses in infrastructure industries to invest in skills and training development, and developing the talent required to deliver New Zealand's future infrastructure

Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson said the strategy was invaluable, the first time New Zealand had a single document setting out a long-term strategy on infrastructure, and highlighted the scale of the challenge ahead.

"The strategy also shows that while further investment is critical, we must be smarter about the way we plan for, deliver and use all of our infrastructure. Trying to just build our way out of these challenges would mean nearly doubling what we currently spend to around 9.6 percent of GDP over a 30-year period. That's over $31 billion per year - a sum that we would struggle to afford or have the capacity to deliver," he said.

"We need to get more from the infrastructure we do build, reducing costs and prioritising for the greatest impact."