Robertson seeks investment community help for new ideas on funding infrastructure
By Paul McBeth
March 9 (BusinessDesk) - Finance Minister Grant Robertson wants to draw on the experience of the country's investment community to find new ways to fund major infrastructure, which will exceed the government's ability to foot the bill.
Speaking at an annual Auckland Chamber of Commerce-Massey University event, Robertson continued his charm offensive to the business community, reiterating his plan to deliver the country's first "wellbeing" budget in May, which will introduce a broader set of measures on which to be judged. Key to the government's plan is a $42 billion capital spending programme, spearheaded by the Kiwibuild project, to address New Zealand's long-running "failure to make big long-term investments".
Robertson has already pledged to repay debt at a slower pace than his predecessor to help pay for those programmes, but he and Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford are actively looking for new ways to finance new infrastructure that it simply won't be able to deliver on its own. Those arrangements include public-private partnerships, special purpose vehicles such as Crown Infrastructure Partners, and capturing the value of those major investments, he said.
"We need to have a range of innovative finance mechanisms and want to work with the investment community on how to develop those," Robertson said. "That's the only way we can create a sustainable future."
The Labour-led administration has already adopted a regional fuel tax to help pay for Auckland's transport infrastructure, such as the City Rail Link. At last year's Infrastructure New Zealand building nations symposium, visiting KPMG global infrastructure executive Stephen Beatty said policymakers need to weigh up whether the taxpayer or users should foot the bill, and that a shift in mindset was needed to view those spending programmes as assets rather than liabilities.
Robertson today gave few clues on the upcoming budget, although he reiterated health, education and housing as three priority areas.