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Fri March 22 2019

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NZ sets up commission to tackle infrastructure issues

20 Feb An independent commission has been set up by the New Zealand government to help it make decisions about the billions of dollars of planned infrastructure investment.

Infrastructure minister Shane Jones
Infrastructure minister Shane Jones

The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission – Te Waihanga – will be established as an Autonomous Crown Entity to carry out two broad functions – strategy and planning, and procurement and delivery support.

New Zealand’s Treasury estimates that net capital spending in the next five years will be more than double that of the previous five years, with the government investing about NZ$42bn through to 2022.

“With this level of investment, we want to make sure we take a longer-term view and make decisions that align with our priorities to build a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy and improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders,” said infrastructure minister Shane Jones.

The new commission will help ensure that best decisions are made about infrastructure investment to improve the long-term economic performance and social wellbeing of our country, he said. “The commission will develop a broad consensus on long-term strategy, enable coordination of infrastructure planning and provide advice and best practice support to infrastructure initiatives.”

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Jones said that a short-term, project-specific focus by previous governments, along with under-investment, means that New Zealand is now facing an unprecedented infrastructure deficit.

“Our transport and urban infrastructure is struggling to keep up with population growth, increased demand and changing needs, including transitioning to a low emissions economy,” he added. “New Zealand’s regional infrastructure is often not at a standard required by communities – this infrastructure deficit is manifesting in housing unaffordability, congestion, poor quality drinking water and lost productivity. That’s simply not good enough.”

The government received nearly 130 submissions on what a new infrastructure body should look like. “The overwhelming message was that it had enough independence from government to have credibility with private sector infrastructure owners, market participants and local government, while also having a close relationship with ministers,” said Shane. “We have heard that message, and we have delivered. Ministers will retain final decisions on infrastructure investments, but the commission will have an independent board and the autonomy it needs to provide robust, impartial advice. It will help hold this government, and future governments, to account and we welcome that.”

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