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KPIs for Auckland’s City Rail Link go beyond the project being delivered on time and on budget – they include social outcomes such as employment and training of ‘target groups’

Editorial – February / March’20

The New Zealand Upgrade Programme, announced by the Government on 29 January, will see $12 billion invested in our roads, rail, schools and hospitals over the next five to 10 years – news that has been welcomed by the construction sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called it a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in New Zealand’, and certainly on the face of it, the country looks set to benefit. Roading is the big winner, with many ‘shovel-ready’ projects given the green light. Extra health facilities have also been outlined, as well as funds for hospitals, schools and other public facilities to switch to clean green energy, such as biomass boilers.

But a new report from the Infrastructure Commission suggests that we might be missing the bigger picture. Released in January and titled ‘Lifting our gaze: Making broader outcomes a reality in the delivery of major infrastructure projects’, the report was commissioned by the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga and produced by Ernst & Young.

The introduction states: ‘Our country is seeing historically high levels of investment in major infrastructure projects, with the Government spending taxpayer dollars on infrastructure in every corner of New Zealand. At the same time, our construction sector, housing stock and the environment are all under significant pressure from underinvestment and limited incentives for public sector agencies to use infrastructure as a means of delivering wider public outcomes (including social, cultural, economic and environmental outcomes).’

It continues: ‘What is missing is an infrastructure investment approach (described, for example, in Budget and business case processes) that empowers agencies to plan and deliver wider outcomes from their own projects with funding support from elsewhere in the public sector.

‘The New Zealand public sector, construction industry and infrastructure community need to collectively lift our gaze and view infrastructure as not only an enabler of economic growth, but as a catalyst for delivering the social, economic and environmental benefits that are now required under the new Government Procurement Rules.’

As an example, the report outlines the key performance indicators for Auckland’s City Rail Link project which go beyond the project being delivered on time and on budget. They include social outcomes such as employment and training of ‘target groups’ (the long-term unemployed, Maori and Pacifica, solo parents, women, and the disabled). Sustainability is a ‘key result area’ measured against reduced resource consumption and waste generation, as is safety, including improved worker health (physical and mental) and wellbeing, and taking corporate social responsibility.

It is good news that the Infrastructure Commission is taking the lead in this matter. It is doing exactly what it was set up to do: to coordinate, develop and promote an approach to infrastructure that improves the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

This new report finds that consideration of broader social outcomes will require a concerted effort by Government procuring agencies, the construction industry and the wider infrastructure community. It will require a considerable shift in the current mindset – but the wider benefits for all New Zealanders will be worth it.

Until next time …
Lynne Richardson, editor



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