Roads to wellbeing

July 12, 2019

The Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council has a strong message for the government: infrastructure is at a crisis point.

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

The warning came in a June 26 letter to Ardern — released to this columnist — where the council said New Zealand lacks a “national masterplan” to tangibly map out “our immediate, medium and long-term infrastructure future in an integrated way”.

The Business Advisory Council, chaired by Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon, has presented a damning indictment of New Zealand’s infrastructure regime saying there is “no overarching vision or leadership in New Zealand for infrastructure development”.

“This means there is no nation-building narrative upon which to build a strategic direction,” it says — although it excuses the Ardern Government of any culpability for the mess which it says is intergenerational.

Apart from a national masterplan — which is heavily redolent of the Singapore Government approach to infrastructure development favoured by some council members — it wants to see funding and financing mechanisms that would allow for long-term, debt-funded or investable opportunities. It notes the incentives between central and local government are misaligned and New Zealand is poor at execution and delivery.

“The public sector does not have the capability to manage a programme of projects of national significance and the private sector operates in a boom-bust cycle,” the letter warns. . .

This government made much about its wellbeing budget but is ignoring the part infrastructure plays in that:

The council’s letter says that Infrastructure, in its broadest sense, underpins wellbeing.

“The success of regions relies upon their effective connectivity to urban centres; linking the city fringe with the centre can reduce income inequality; mature, unclogged and functioning cities (especially Auckland) are our critical engines of growth; swimmable beaches rely on major storm water and sewerage projects; energy certainty is a basic building block for investment; larger bridges can enable higher loadings, fewer truck movements and lower emissions; broadband connectivity empowers business to occur anywhere, any time; and a connected vision for infrastructure enables wealth to flow into and around the country, building an equality of opportunity for all Kiwis.”

The government scrapped several reading projects which would have improved travel times, safety, and productivity.

They would have been roads that led to improved wellbeing.

It then added insult to injury by increasing fuel taxes to fund trains and cycleways.

“Unfortunately, the system that sits beneath effective and sustainable infrastructure development in our country is fundamentally broken.” . . 

Improved infrastructure shouldn’t be a partisan issue but this is an anti-roads, anti-cars government.

Walkways, cycleways, buses and trains all have a role to play but they can’t replace safe and efficient roads.

The government doesn’t appear to realise that improved infrastructure Is an important component of sustainability, bringing economic, environmental and social benefits.

Its transport blind spot stops it seeing that poor infrastructure is a roadblock on the journey to wellbeing.


NZ doesn’t need yet another working group

August 28, 2018

The Prime Minister promised an announcement to counter business gloom. She delivered yet another working group.

The Prime Minister’s announcement of yet another working group to try and shore up plummeting business confidence will do nothing to address the uncertainty created by the Government’s anti-growth policies, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.

“This is a Government that believes it can talk its way out of anything – but instead of trying to shout over the conveyor belt of weak economic indicators they should be taking concrete steps to change their anti-growth policies.

“The Prime Minister talks about wanting to lift wages and grow a sustainable economy – everyone wants that. But the way to do it is to take real steps to support businesses, not driving uncertainty through endless working groups and bad policy.

“Instead Ms Ardern has announced a Business Advisory Council, a body with a chair but no members yet, and a Business Partnership Agenda that merely repackages existing, problematic policies, a third of which are working groups.

“There’s a growing sense of panic from this Government. The Prime Minister is desperately trying to deflect attention from poor economic indicators with a list of well-meaning objectives without detailing how they’ll be achieved.”

The Government inherited an economy growing at 3-4 per cent, generating 10,000 new jobs a month, strong surpluses, declining debt and a residential building boom. It is rapidly eroding that buffer.

GDP per capita has fallen to its lowest annual level since 2011. Job creation has plummeted. Business confidence is at its lowest level since the GFC. And the cost of living is rising.

“Over 90 percent of our businesses are SMEs who are really hurt by the piling on of costs, taxes and compliance. They won’t be comforted by today’s slogans and slides from the PM – with no clear economic leadership delivering a plan for our economy. . . 

Business needs certainty.

Business doesn’t need yet another working group added to the plethora of working groups that are wasting time and money, delaying decisions and adding to uncertainty and nor does New Zealand.


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