Podcast: The Detail

Driving a bulldozer through red tape

Infrastructure is such a boring word - but what's happening now to boost our economy will provide jobs and change our quality of life - a lot faster than might have been. 

The desperate need to boost the economy has led to the fast-tracking of 11 infrastructure projects – jobs they say are “shovel-ready” but are being held up by red tape – sometimes by decades.

Infrastructure is one of those words that sounds very boring. But when it means jobs, much needed water, access, homes, and faster commute times – that’s essential.

Paul Blair, the CEO of Infrastructure New Zealand, says infrastructure is all about wellbeing for people. But the nature of the processes to get projects off the ground, and the need to navigate the Resource Management Act, “enables incumbents to block positive progress,” he says. “It also enables a noisy few to hold up the needs of the majority.

“It’s about the needs of the public as a whole; it’s never going to be perfect and it’s your right in democracy to have a say. But there are so many things here where the population suffers because of the noisy actions of a few who are perfectly able to protest. But at some point you’ve got to pick a stake and say, ‘is 80 percent of support enough? Is 90 percent support enough?’ What we’ve tended to do is say if there’s 3 percent dissension, it doesn’t go ahead.”

In today’s podcast Blair talks Sharon Brettkelly through the advantages of using our Covid window for pulling the country up to scratch when it comes to our environment – and that includes better cycling and walking passages, and security of water supply.

“New Zealand is in a really fortunate place, but we’ve never had a strategic plan,” he tells her. “What we’ve tried to provoke is, ‘what is the vision for what we want to achieve for this country, so that we set a strategic plan. It’ll change …. but you set a plan for where you’re going.”

And if that means Kiwis having high income but a poor standard of living – “that’s no good”.

“Covid for me is our Olympic moment, where we should treat New Zealand as a social enterprise. We should figure out what we want to do, set a vision, set a plan, and then get us all rowing the waka together.”

Want more from The Detail? Find past episodes here.

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