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IPW: New Zealand Infrastructure Commission launches first long-term strategy

10 May 2022

In this week’s Infrastructure Policy Watch, we look at the priorities in New Zealand’s new infrastructure strategy, and how countries are progressing on achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

IPW: New Zealand Infrastructure Commission launches first long-term strategy
The New Zealand government has welcomed the infrastructure strategy as a “major milestone”. Image credit: Victor M/Shutterstock

New Zealand hits “major milestone” with publication of new infrastructure strategy

Te Waihanga, also known as the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, has published its first long-term infrastructure strategy.

The New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy 2022–2052 sets out the infrastructure challenges and opportunities facing New Zealand over the next 30 years.

It draws on research, consultation and the views of more than 20,000 New Zealanders.

The strategy looks at past issues affecting the country, including decades of infrastructure underinvestment and cost pressures.

It seeks to ensure there’s infrastructure in place to meet future demands such as climate change adaptation and a growing population.

The strategy is focused on five core outcomes:

  • Enabling net zero carbon emissions through rapid development of clean energy and reducing the carbon emissions from infrastructure.
  • Supporting towns and regions to flourish through better physical and digital connectivity and freight and supply chains.
  • Building attractive and inclusive cities that respond to population growth, unaffordable housing and traffic congestion through better long-term planning, pricing and good public transport.
  • Strengthening resilience to shocks and stresses by taking a coordinated and planned approach to risks based on good-quality information.
  • Moving to a circular economy by setting a national direction for waste, managing pressure on landfills and waste-recovery infrastructure, and developing a framework for the operation of waste-to-energy infrastructure.

Broadly grouped under these objectives, the strategy makes 68 wide-ranging recommendations aimed at central government, local government and the infrastructure sector itself.

Recommendations include increasing the resilience of critical infrastructure, better aligning the planning system with net zero, increasing the uptake of technology such as digital twins, and reforming the transport funding system.

The New Zealand government has welcomed the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission's first infrastructure strategy as a “major milestone”.

It’s preparing a response to it by September 2022 that will outline steps to turn the strategy into action.

ICE's view:

An effective strategic infrastructure planning process is essential to overcome uncertainty. It ensures the infrastructure system delivers sustainable outcomes in the long-term.

The strategy recognises that to achieve these outcomes, good decision-making on planning, investment and delivery is crucial.

Importantly, it acknowledges that smarter investment, not just more investment, is essential to achieving the recommendations.

There are similar themes to infrastructure strategies and challenges internationally. The strategy recognises the need for a planning system that actively prioritises meeting net zero, something that ICE believes should’ve been explored as part of the UK’s recent energy security strategy.

The recommendations around transport funding also come at a crucial time, particularly as Auckland Transport have recently revealed a huge funding shortfall due to the impact of Covid-19.

There's no plausible path to net zero without significant transport emissions reductions and it’s becoming clearer that new, fit-for-purpose transport funding systems are something that governments globally must develop.

OECD publishes report measuring progress on the 2030 SDGs

The OECD has published a report revealing that countries are advancing slowly on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The report uses UN and OECD data to look at:

  • Countries’ current achievements,
  • Whether they have been moving towards or away from the targets,
  • How likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, and
  • Whether progress has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report confirms that virtually all OECD countries are securing basic economic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks in the SDGs.

However, progress towards 21 targets on issues such as ensuring no one is left behind, restoring trust in institutions and limiting pressures on the natural environment are still off track.

OECD Deputy Secretary-General Jeff Schlagenhauf said, “while the report shows that some targets are far from being achieved, the momentum for international action is strong…”

“[We] need a rigorous understanding of where countries stand, how quickly they are advancing towards their goals and what should be the priorities for action,” Schlagenhauf said.

ICE's view:

All OECD countries have signed up to deliver the SDGs by 2030, and last year marked the start of a ‘decade of action’.

It’s clear there’s been some progress, but distance needs to be closed on a number of these critical goals soon if they’re to be achieved within the next eight years.

Infrastructure has a crucial role to play in achieving the SDGs: not only is there an infrastructure SDG (SDG 9), but research has shown that 72% of the SDG indicators are linked to networked infrastructure investment and 92% when all forms of infrastructure are considered.

The SDGs can play a major role in providing a baseline for strategic infrastructure planning, ensuring that both national need and national vision are joined together in a cohesive plan for the future.

espite this important role, few developed countries use the SDGs or reference them as part of their infrastructure plans.

In case you missed it:

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch.

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  • David Hawkes, head of policy at ICE