New Zealand’s civil construction industry applauds investment in people in the Government’s 2021 Budget, but sees a worrying lack of certainty in the forward infrastructure work programme for New Zealand’s transport and water networks.
Civil Contractors New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Silcock said it was important to recognise the Government’s investment in people through funding for training, housing and other support. But more certainty and consistency was needed in a work programme that seemed to be eternally reassessed.
Mr Silcock said this certainty was needed to provide long-term opportunities for people. Longer-term vision was needed about when projects were brought to market, or by the time people had finished training in civil infrastructure apprenticeships, the money might run out.
“Increased infrastructure investment is good, but the budget brings with it a bulge of early investment, followed by uncertainty and potential underinvestment further down the track. For the people currently training, more certainty of the work ahead is needed.”
He said it was hard to believe the New Zealand Upgrade Programme projects announced in January 2020 would be put back to the drawing board once again. The main concern was how long the projects would be on hold for, and how much more money would be spent on re-scoping and re-budgeting projects that had been announced as ready to go.
The proposed increase in water investment of $296m was also ‘a drop in the ocean’ when considered against increasing demands on the aging water network, and was targeted to remodelling the way water was administrated rather than work on the ground.
Despite this, he said it was great the uncertainty created by combining rail investment with the existing National Land Transport Fund had been resolved in the short term to help offset decades of underinvestment in rail.
“Putting this additional rail funding into the National Land Transport Fund recognises the move to “multi-modal” projects now funded from this fund, and the impact this has on our investment in roading and road maintenance.”
Mr Silcock said there were long-term concerns about the sustainability of this approach, and while it was positive news there was more investment in infrastructure, there was a massive amount of pressure in the system.
“Adding short term funding to the National Land Transport Fund risks creating a short-term boom at the cost of long-term stability. Rather than a sugar hit, what we need is ongoing certainty and consistency about the level of funding so we can plan for the years ahead.”
ABOUT CIVIL CONTRACTORS NEW ZEALAND
Civil Contractors New Zealand is an incorporated society that represents the interests and aspirations of more than 600 organisations – including large, medium-sized and small businesses in civil engineering, construction and general contracting. It also has associate members who provide valuable products, support and services to contractor members.