IrrigationNZ supports the Government’s decision to ready infrastructure projects for construction following a return to normal in New Zealand as part of efforts to boost the economy. IrrigationNZ notes that water infrastructure has been included in this.
“The pandemic and the lockdown have demonstrated how important the food and fibre sectors are to our country, to put food on the table and also to support our economy,” Chief Executive of IrrigationNZ Elizabeth Soal says.
‘’It is therefore not only a huge relief for the primary industries sector to see water included as essential infrastructure but also extremely prudent. Not only will investment in water infrastructure projects create jobs during the construction phase, but they will also support the longer-term resilience of our economy.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone and while health and wellbeing are the number one priority, planning ahead for the post-pandemic New Zealand is essential,” Ms Soal says
“In the last few decades, water infrastructure projects have typically been funded largely by local communities and end users. As the effects of the pandemic affect regional economies on a scale we have not seen before, increased central government funding will be critical from now on. High levels of co-funding at the local level will simply no longer be feasible” said Ms Soal.
“We also need to consider how certain processes the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act will affect the viability of projects” says Ms Soal. “For example, it is currently unclear how annual planning processes will occur or how resource consents can be fast-tracked to get projects ‘shovel-ready’ in a short time frame. Consenting processes for major projects generally take years, not weeks” said Ms Soal.
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.
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.
Ms Soal encourages water storage and infrastructure projects which fit the criteria as set out by the government to put forward their projects to the Government’s reference group or Provincial Development Unit, which are seeking projects with a value over $10 million, which would have an immediate stimulatory effect on the construction industry, its workforce and the economy.