Infrastructure: the biggest issue for all Councils over the next 10 years.

The biggest cost for Councils across NZ is infrastructure

"We might not always realise it but this infrastructure  is vital to our quality of life. It is at the heart of our economy, powering our industries, providing high quality jobs and helping us share ideas and information so we can trade with the world." Dr Allan Bollard Board Chair, New Zealand Infrastructure Commission.

I find that when I mention the word "infrastructure" many people lose interest, even though it is the most expensive and important aspect of Councils' work. It is also the biggest pressure on rates and  subject to the big impact of inflation and cost rises. I struggle to make the issue tangible or interesting to our community.

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing from the Chief Executive of the NZ Infrastructure Commission, Ross Copland. He blew me away with his ability to tell a clear story of our future needs and challenges. All the Mayors present were impressed.  Our Chief Executive Lance, and myself, wanted to bring him back to Hamilton on the next plane. We didn't of course but the good news is he is coming in September.

Ross was talking about the recently launched "Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2052".

Here is the link to the full ( easy to read document) https://www.tewaihanga.govt.nz...

 But read on for some key highlights.

So what is infrastructure? What change is needed? Why?

Our success in all we do depends on water, power, transport, healthcare and education. We can break infrastructure into 3 types:

  • Economic: energy, telecommunications, transport, waste and water infrastructure
  • Social: hospitals, schools, prisons, parks, libraries and community buildings
  • Natural environment: the way we connect to the resources we need from, and take care of our environment

There are many opportunities and challenges associated with the ways NZ delivers this important infrastructure. Council is just one of the providers. 

Here are a few statistics:

  • 115,000 homes are needed to fix the current housing crisis
  • NZ needs to spend $60 on renewals, keeping things in good order or replacing them, for every $40 we spend on NEW infrastructure
  • In 2024 NZ will have a shortfall of 118, 500 construction workers
  • An estimated $90M of spending is required to fix up NZ's water networks
  • One in four New Zealanders will be over 65 years of age by 2050

In addition we can't forget that we live across the Alpine fault so earthquakes or volcanic activity are a real threat. In addition we have the challenge to reduce our carbon emissions.

In the report CE Ross Copland reminds us that there have been decades of under investment by Government, business and Councils, and now we must respond to that.

While this all seems negative, in fact there is much we can do. This includes; planning for the future, protecting  areas needed for future infrastructure, and having timely renewals and maintenance. Thankfully, Hamilton Council is in a much better space here than some Councils. We have long understood that Hamilton will grow fast and we must plan for that. In fact, half of NZ's population will live in one of the 5 major centres. We are one of those. 

There is progress yet to be made. This includes maximising the potential of existing infrastructure, making sure new assets are built to be long-lived, an identifying and using new ways to fund this. We must be resource efficient, reduce waste and adopt new efficient technologies.

Cities, such as ours are going to play a significant part in the wellbeing of New Zealanders. The report notes, that in some cases, people may live in one place but work in another. It uses the Hamilton-Waipa-Waikato area as an example. That is why it is vital that we work well with our neighbours. Cross-boundary and long term spatial planning will remain important. Shared services between Councils, I believe, may well be a greater part of the future.

The report goes on to talk about what good planning looks like, making the point that currently delays caused by the Resource Management Act, consenting. The cost implications are alarming! The time taken to process consents has gone up 150% in the last 5 years and  the costs have gone up 70% over 7 years. In addition the demand for new consents due to a strong construction sector continues to rise. That is why it remains important to me to push for digital and business transformation of Hamilton City Council. This is underway but needs to proceed at more pace.

If you want to know more here is a link to a commissioned report undertaken by Sapere /https://www.tewaihanga.govt.nz...

Chapter 9 of the NZ Infrastructure Strategy sets out 68 recommendations which include:

  • Improving efficiency and security of freight and national supply chain
  • Reducing barriers and costs of providing infrastructure services.
  • Better water management and conservation
  • Increasing the supply and use of low-emissions transport modes
  • Optimising urban land use
  • Providing clear direction to district plans and funding plans
  • Providing for growing cities....
  • Improving recycling....
  • Ensuring that infrastructure charges keep pace with inflation, and
  • Developing the talent required to deliver NZ's future infrastructure

I am sure that is enough food for thought. I invite you to browse the full report at the above link. The report also links through to other great information and resources. /https://www.tewaihanga.govt.nz...

And this Newroom article https://www.newsroom.co.nz/tim... is definitely a challenging but thought provoking read ( 3 minute read)

Where to now?

We have big challenges, that is is clear. Local Government leaders face some uncomfortable decisions going forward. The ratepayer faces some big future costs unless we use technology better, maximise the use of our assets, renew and maintain what we have, build long lasting future assets, AND look creatively at better funding tools. 

To any Council candidate who promises progress without cost, I ask how?  We can't just shove the information in this report into a dark corner. Ratepayers alone cannot not, nor should not, bear the full burden of costs. 

To do better we need to work in partnership with others, plan across boundaries, considered greater shared services. We need to have honest conversations with our community, be bold and seek positive solutions.

NZ is full of innovative and enterprising thinkers and businesses. We can't progress alone. I am confident that with a collaborative/ solution focused approach we can grow a better city, not just a bigger one.


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