NZ’s Infrastructure Strategy Tackles Climate Change

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NZ’s Infrastructure Strategy Tackles Climate Change

New Zealand’s infrastructure underpins the quality of life of all Kiwis. But the times are changing, and infrastructure needs to respond.

Climate change, population growth, the increasing demand for housing, growing congestion on roads, and ageing pipelines are challenges facing the country and its infrastructure. Both must respond to the changing and future needs.

The “New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga 2022-2052” lays out the challenges and opportunities for the country’s infrastructure in the next 30 years.

The infrastructure strategy sets a vision for how New Zealand’s infrastructure can lay a foundation for the country’s people, places, and businesses to thrive for generations.

According to the NZ Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga, “The strategy is the culmination of two years’ independent investigation and incorporates feedback from over 20,000 New Zealanders, over 700 consultation submissions, and meetings and workshops with stakeholders from all over New Zealand.”

Te Waihanga looks at infrastructure as an interconnected system noting that it should be holistic and takes a long-term view.

The report lays out the following infrastructure challenges that New Zealand is facing:

  • Kiwis spend five days total sitting in traffic per year
  • By 2050, one in four NZers will be over the age of 65
  • $90 billion is required to fix the water networks
  • $5 billion worth of municipal infrastructure is exposed to sea-level rise
  • 115,000 more homes are needed to address the housing crisis
  • A 75% chance of an Alpine Fault earthquake by 2070
  • Electricity generation needs to increase by 170%
  • For every $40 spent on infrastructure, $60 needs to be spent on renewals
  • The country’s population will grow to 6.2 million or more in 30 years
  • Infrastructure construction has risen 60% faster than prices elsewhere in the economy
  • 50% of the population will live in five major centres – Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Christchurch, and Wellington.
  • Shortage of construction workers estimated at 118,500 in 2024

“The purpose of this work is to develop a strategic response to the many challenges we face. This means looking at the infrastructure system as a whole: users, regulators, planners, investors, insurers, builders, asset owners, iwi, and communities. In a world of converging networks and complex needs, understanding the interdependencies and optimising the system across all sectors is our focus,” notes Ross Copland, Chief Executive of New Zealand Infrastructure Commission Te Waihanga.

In a press release, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says that “The Strategy highlights the scale of the task still ahead of us…The strategy also shows that while further investment is critical, we must be smarter about the way we plan for, deliver and use all of our infrastructure.”

Below are what Robertson mentioned in his 3rd May press release, “Strategy highlights pathway to reduce infrastructure deficit”:

  • “Trying to just build our way out of these challenges would mean nearly doubling what we currently spend to around 9.6 per cent of GDP over a 30-year period. That’s over $31 billion per year – a sum that we would struggle to afford or have the capacity to deliver.”
  • “This means we need to get more from the infrastructure we build, reducing costs and prioritising for the greatest impact.”
  • “The Infrastructure Strategy seeks to make sense of New Zealand’s complex infrastructure environment by focusing on improvements to planning, project selection, and delivery of infrastructure; making better use of funding and financing tools; building workforce capability and capacity; accelerating technology adoption. In taking a coordinated approach, it firmly places the wellbeing of New Zealanders at its core.”

The NZ Infrastructure Strategy report highlights the impacts of climate change, noting that it is the defining challenge of this century, and infrastructure is a vital part of the solution.

Reducing and managing emissions when building and operating our infrastructure, incorporating the long-term cost of carbon, and considering whole-of-life emissions when making infrastructure decisions can help meet the country’s net-zero carbon emissions economy by 2050.

Meeting this ambition will also require significant energy transition and investment in new infrastructure. This includes decarbonising the transport sector, which accounts for 38% of New Zealand’s non-agricultural emissions. Most of these emissions arise from fossil fuels used to power vehicles.

The NZ Infrastructure Strategy says:

Clean electricity will reduce carbon emissions from transport, process heat, and agricultural activities. Over the next 30 years, we’ll need to build significantly more low-emissions electricity generation.

The cost of addressing all infrastructure challenges is massive and will require making trade-offs. Because we have limited resources to build, operate, maintain, and renew infrastructure, we can’t invest everywhere at once. Improving infrastructure in one area can mean leaving needs unmet in another. Careful investment prioritisation is needed when deciding where, when and how much to invest.

The infrastructure strategy sets out choices that the country can take to address these challenges, such as making better use of infrastructure, undertaking better project selection, broadening funding and financing options, and streamlining delivery.

The strategy provides 68 recommendations across the breadth of the infrastructure sector to build a more productive, resilient, and sustainable future for all New Zealanders. Following this, the Government will prepare its response, which will be shared in September 2022.

“The Government is now preparing a response to this strategy, which will set out the steps to turn strategy into action. As required by legislation, we will share this response in September. However, the recommendations in the strategy cannot be met by the Government alone. New Zealand needs the whole system, including central and local government, iwi/Māori, and the private sector, to work together to address the significant challenges we face. We all have a part to play,” Robertson says.

Click the link to read the report:

Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy 2022-2052


New Zealand Infrastructure Commission (2022). Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa 2022 – 2052 New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy. Wellington: New Zealand Infrastructure Commission / Te Waihanga. Retrieved from

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