The Government has tasked a group of industry leaders to seek out infrastructure projects that are ready to start as soon as the construction industry returns to normal to reduce the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones say.
The Infrastructure Industry Reference Group, to be headed by Crown Infrastructure Partners chairman Mark Binns, will put forward to ministers projects from the private and public sector that are “shovel-ready” or likely to be within six months.
These new projects will be in addition to, and build on, the Government’s $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme and existing Provincial Growth Fund infrastructure investments.
The Government will then decide which could be funded, contracted and ready to go as soon as the construction workforce is able to return to work. Relevant government departments will also provide advice to ministers.
“We are focused on the health and well-being of New Zealanders first and foremost, and we need to get through the lockdown and out the other side of this pandemic,” Twyford says.
“However, the Government is also planning ahead for when that time comes. That’s why we are now developing a pipeline of infrastructure projects from across the country that would be ready to begin as soon as we are able to move around freely and go back to work.
“The types of projects the Government would consider funding include water, transport, clean energy and buildings. They would also have a public or regional benefit, create jobs and be able to get underway in short order,” Twyford says.
The group, which includes NZTA chairman Sir Brian Roche, KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller and Infrastructure Commission chairman Alan Bollard as initial members, will work alongside the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) which has spent the past two-and-a-half years working with regions, and is well-equipped to identify priority, shovel-ready projects up and down the country.
A member of the Construction Industry Accord will join the group, and the recently established Infrastructure Commission will also provide advice and expertise. However, final decisions will be made by ministers.
“While the economic effect of Covid-19 is yet to be fully understood, we know that we have an opportunity to move our country into action mode, and the Government does not wish to see red tape stymie our eventual recovery,” Jones says.
“The reference group will be seeking out larger projects, those with a value of over $10 million, which would have an immediate stimulatory effect on the construction industry, its workforce and the economy.
“Smaller projects will be considered if they demonstrate a direct and immediate benefit to the regional economies and communities in which they are based.
“In the meantime, the Provincial Development Unit will continue to work with local councils to identify regional roading projects, particularly in the identified surge regions, to provide employment and boost local economies.
“These projects will help address the country’s infrastructure deficit as well as create jobs and buoy the economy,” Jones says.