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International lessons for NZ’s infrastructure development

International lessons for NZ’s infrastructure development

When Len Brown became the first Mayor of the new Auckland Super City, he immediately pledged an ambitious goal to make Auckland “the most liveable city in the world”. The New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID) says the government could learn a lesson or two from a recent study trip undertaken to Canada, the UK and Scandinavia.

The trip, culminating in the report Insights for New Zealand: Infrastructure Development in Comparative Nations, was undertaken by NZCID chief executive Stephen Selwood and Paul Buetow, infrastructure partner at law firm Kensington Swan. 

The duo visited Canada, the UK and Scandinavia last year to find out why New Zealand’s infrastructure performance, when compared with most OECD countries, always falls below the levels achieved by nations of comparable economies (in terms of size, population, social and environmental ethos). The result is a 

"Not limited at the outset by conceived constraints about funding, governance or planning approvals, each of these countries have set an 'ambitious outcome-focused vision' for national development and then determined how best this can be funded and delivered", says Selwood. 

Investigating the current practice in governance, planning, funding and delivery of infrastructure in these countries, the following “striking differences” where found when compared with practices in New Zealand. 

1. The level of ambition for overall national development. This was particularly evident in Denmark, Sweden and British Columbia. Despite the economic challenges facing the United Kingdom, it was also generally true of Scotland and England.

2. The degree of central government leadership in the planning, funding and delivery of nationally significant infrastructure.

3. Far greater alignment of planning at national, regional and local levels.

4. The application of national spatial planning as a component of national economic development plans.

5. A commitment to long term funding of nationally significant transport infrastructure in Denmark and Sweden, including bi-partisan support across their Parliaments.

6. The degree to which national priorities are considered in the determination of planning approvals and consents for nationally significant projects.

7. An emphasis on sustainable infrastructure, green energy and addressing climate change.  

Len Brown says he wants a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025 for Auckland. In its report, the NZCID discusses Stokholm as the leading city of sustainable development in Europe, with an aim to become completely fossil fuel free by 2050 and reducing its green house gases three tones per resident by 2015.

“Stockholm’s plan is to do this whilst investing in infrastructure. It has a key vision of sustainable infrastructure investment,” says the report. 

8. The move towards road user charging and road pricing as a means to reduce travel demand, encourage a shift in transport mode share and fund new investment in infrastructure. 

9. A commitment to funding and procurement being undertaken on a best value for money approach. This involves a consideration of all procurement models. No one model suits all projects. 

One such procurement method explored in-depth in the report is private public partnerships (PPPs), an avenue of funding the NZCID says is often debated in New Zealand. The report found that communication is critical to forming successful PPPs. It says PPS have in the past suffered from public and stakeholder opposition because of a lack of communication and understanding as to exactly how and why the PPS were being undertaken. 

The NZCID acknowledges New Zealand has strengths in areas like natural beauty, water resources, health and education standards, along with labour, financial, and good’s’ market efficiencies. But it says work needs to be done to capitalise on these areas, especially when it comes to national infrastructure planning, funding and delivery. 

"The difference between these countries and New Zealand is that they have identified a very clear strategic direction, and supported that by a fully funded investment plan that has multi-party support across parliament,” says Selwood. "It is critical that the next iteration of the National Infrastructure Plan and the Auckland and other regional spatial plans currently under development all positively contribute to aligned planning, funding and delivery at of infrastructure at both the national and regional levels." 

Download the full report HERE.