The government’s budget announcement of an increased infrastructure investment to $71b over five years has potential to deliver results, but civil contractors say the investment must come with more certainty around the work programme ahead and focus on the work at hand.
CCNZ Chief Executive Alan Pollard welcomed the new National Resilience Plan, which has an initial funding pool of $6b and a focus on building infrastructure resilience in the medium and long term for at-risk areas, and a $279m investment package for State Highways that focusses on slip prevention, flood mitigation and managing risks such as sea level rise.
He said these investments were a tangible and much-needed response so the country’s contractors could prepare for rebuild and recovery following the impact of recent severe weather events, as well as catch up with an infrastructure deficit in the hundreds of billions.
“New Zealand has taken a beating from severe weather events, which has made our massive and well-documented infrastructure deficit even worse and will require sustained funding and focus to overcome.
“It’s great to see recognition of the role well-planned preventative works can play in mitigating the damage flooding and severe weather events can wreak on our infrastructure and communities, and licence given to Waka Kotahi to carry out much needed work.”
He said more detail around the work was needed to give civil contractors the confidence they needed to invest in new and emerging technologies, and to invest in hiring and training staff. Because of this, it was important they could have confidence in a consistent a pipeline of work.
“The work that civil contractors do underpins all other parts of the construction sector, so the focus on a clearly defined and well-funded programme of work is essential if we are serious about tackling our infrastructure challenges”.
While good support and collaboration between government and industry was important, delivering good construction outcomes would require all parties to focus on the job at hand – the construction and maintenance of the country’s infrastructure networks in the short, medium and long term.
It was all too common to see infrastructure budgets remain unspent due to holdups from changes to design, delivery, and administration. Funding was needed to finance tangible work on the ground, rather than growing the amount of government administration, he said.
“As a country, we have a lot of catching up to do. A commitment for $71b in infrastructure investment over five years can enable a lot of good work. We need to make sure it leads to actual work on the ground and leads to productive outcomes.
“There are also a lot of distractions out there, so we need to make sure our people and companies can focus on their core task of construction to achieve the good outcomes infrastructure delivers in terms of healthy, prosperous and well-connected communities.”
Mr Pollard said communities and businesses were hurting from rising costs as well as severe weather events, so mental health support was also an important consideration.