Waterview Project – Auckland
Around $110 billion will be spent by central and local government on infrastructure over the next 10 years – but more money will be needed from user-pays and other charges, Finance Minister Bill English says.
The Government has also announced it will develop national data standards for roads, water and buildings, which it hopes will avoid a “silo” approach to expensive new projects.
“Centres of excellence” will be established with people who can help government departments and councils with the analysis and presentation of data.
“Expensive and long-lived infrastructure assets won’t deliver the right results if planning occurs in silos,” Mr English said in a speech unveiling the 2015 National Infrastructure plan at the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure (NZCID) symposium in Christchurch this morning.
The plan contains 145 initiatives which are designed to help the country cope with ageing infrastructure, and increasing pressures from a growing population, much of which will occur north of Taupo.
Mr English said there would need to be an increased focus on “non-asset solutions”, such as charging those who have a strong demand for the use of infrastructure.
“This isn’t a new idea. Taxes on fuel to pay for the National Land Transport Fund mean we already use demand management tools in roading.
“And all councils meter large water consumers. New technology will offer greater opportunities for managing demand for infrastructure assets over the next 30 years.”
Mr English said that such charges should not be used without considering benefits to improved infrastructure, such as increased productivity or well-being
“And charges for infrastructure use should never be used simply to raise revenue.”
A key focus of today’s plan is the need to renew ageing networks of existing infrastructure, Mr English said. That included schools, which have an average age of 42 years.
The Ministry of Education has recently surveyed all of the country’s state and state-integrated schools and found them to be in poorer condition than thought.
Damp, mouldy conditions at schools including Northland College and Western Springs College in Auckland have made headlines recently. Both those schools are scheduled for hugely-expensive upgrades.
“New Zealand’s population is ageing. The median age has increased from 32.8 years in 1996 to 36.9 years today, and is expected to reach 42.7 years in 2043,” Mr English said.
“This has implications for the types of services New Zealanders will want, the infrastructure required to deliver those services, and the available funding.
“Some of our regions will grow in size, while others will shrink. By 2045, the demographers expect another 1.2 million people to be living in New Zealand, with most of that increase expected to be north of Taupō.
“Those people will require housing, transport, electricity, water and telecommunications. They will also help to pay for it.”
Mr English also today released a pipeline of capital spending for central government departments, which he said showed the Government’s commitment to transparent dialogue with local government and industry.
When National came to power in 2008 discussions with councils and departments on infrastructure were often short-term in focus, Mr English said, but a smarter approach was needed to meet the significant challenges over the next 30 years.
Local Government NZ, which represents the country’s 78 local and regional authorities, last month made a number of proposals funding councils, including fuel levies, taxes on tourists, and collecting rates on Crown-owned land.
Those were dismissed by Local Government Minister Paula Bennett, who warned councils to look at their own spending and high wages rather than chasing the Crown or ratepayers for more funding.
LGNZ president Lawrence Yule, who has said local government is facing unprecedented economic and demographic change, welcomed today’s 30 year plan.
“While local and central government will not agree on everything, over the timeframe of this plan LGNZ will continue to drive strategic performance improvements across its infrastructure including the three waters, roading and transport, as well as a new partnership with central government on risk management of local assets,” Mr Yule wrote in a forward to the plan.
Today’s report notes that climate change is predicted to cause sea level rises of 30 centimetres by 2050, and that flooding is already New Zealand’s most frequent natural disaster at a cost of around $51 million each year.
Local authorities are already noting that the rising water table is hastening the degradation of pipes.
- Nicholas Jones
- NZ Herald
- Photo: Nick Reed