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News Worthy: The need to strengthen infrastructure

News Worthy

15 August 2008 - No. 259

The need to strengthen infrastructure

Right now, we have a significant infrastructure deficit. The result is poor productivity and increased pressure on inflation and interest rates. This deficit spans from our roading network through to our energy supply.

Nor is the problem limited to central government. Over the next decade local government will face an infrastructure deficit of some $30 billion.

National believes building better infrastructure is essential to fuelling higher levels of non-inflationary economic growth for years to come."

So this is the plan:

* Appoint a Minister of Infrastructure to reshape, co-ordinate and then oversee the Government's infrastructure objectives.

* Develop a 20-year National Infrastructure Plan in conjunction with local government to set a clear direction for vital national infrastructure investment, including top priority projects.

* Introduce a new category of state highway, called Roads of National Significance, which will be singled out for priority treatment. SH1 is an example. Such roads will be central to development and investment plans

* Introduce priority consenting, which will streamline consents for major national infrastructure using a call-in process so the decision is determined nationally. The law will require a decision on these priority consents within nine months.

* Increase Crown capital investment by up to an extra $500 million a year above levels projected by Labour. This is in addition to the Broadband investment commitment of $1.5 billion over six years. This will result in National investing in close to $5 billion of additional capital investments, over the next six years, to fund infrastructure over and above that foreshadowed by Labour. This mean that at the most, National will be running a gross debt-to-GDP ratio around two percentage points higher than Labour is planning.

* Pass laws to introduce a new range of financing techniques for national infrastructure projects. National will introduce infrastructure bonds as a new asset class, and make greater use of public-private partnerships.

The plan to step-up investment in critical and necessary infrastructure will be done at the same time as remaining within conservative debt levels.

The volunteer aspect of community service

A recent article in the media that some Auckland schools are cutting back on after-school sports because they cannot find volunteers to coach their teams should come as no surprise. It should however be a matter for reflection and action.

There are a variety of influences behind the fall off in volunteers, the main being increased work pressures which make it more difficult for those in employment to be volunteers

Volunteers play a major role in the community. They provide essential frontline emergency services in emergency medical intervention and fire fighting.

To take an example, St John in New Zealand has 13,000 members, of whom 7,070 are volunteers. Of our 3,130 ambulance officers, 2,318 are volunteers.

In 2007 Statistics New Zealand produced a report "The Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account 2004". The report estimates that the number of people who volunteered for one or more non-profit institutions to be 1,011,600 for the year ended March 2004. This represents 31 percent of the New Zealand population aged 12 years and over.

It was estimated that these volunteers contributed 270 million hours of formal unpaid work. This is equal to 133,799 full-time positions being filled by volunteers. The value of voluntary labour (or formal unpaid work) was estimated to be $3.31 billion for the year ended March 2004. This estimate added 2.3 percent to the contribution that non-profit institutions make to GDP.

So the challenge for the community is clear. We have to nurture and maintain the volunteer aspect of community service. Such service needs to be seen as an implicit obligation of citizenship. For the reality is that without such service, many critical activities in our society cannot be effectively accomplished.

The poet William Wordsworth once said "The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love".

Political Quote of the Week

"Hope is the strongest pillar that protects the entire world" Sri Chinmoy- Indian philosopher and guru (1931-2007)

Dr Richard Worth
National Party MP


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