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Contractors keen to get started on NZ Upgrade Programme

29 January 2020

New Zealand’s civil contractors welcome today’s coalition government announcement of a range of infrastructure projects funded under the New Zealand Upgrade Programme.

Civil Contractors New Zealand Chief Executive Peter Silcock said the announcements showed the Government was looking at a wide range of projects, including roads, was a welcome one for the country’s road builders and civil construction companies.

“Planning for many of these projects is well advanced as they have been on the drawing board for a long time. This selection will start to address the country’s infrastructure deficit, but it will be interesting to see the shape these projects take, and when they hit the ground.”

Mr Silcock said timing was critical for civil construction companies as projects like Transmission Gully, Christchurch Motorways and Waikato Expressway began to wind down, and he hoped these projects would not get bogged down in bureaucracy.

He said continuity of work was very important for the civil construction industry to ensure it could retain valuable skills and make the best use of available equipment. While the location and proposed project start dates seemed to provide good continuity of work, getting projects like this going took time and making them happen wasn’t as simple as flipping a switch.

Mr Silcock said many of the projects announced had been ‘pretty much ready to go’, but any radical changes could cause significant delays. He also lauded the Government’s investment in improved rail networks, which would build continued long-term rail construction capability.

“The Government has re-prioritised many projects towards improved road safety and multi-modal transport, so it will be really interesting to see how these projects have changed under the lens of their current policies.”

Four-lane highway improvements at Mill Road in Auckland, Tauranga Northern Link and Otaki to North of Levin showed a welcome sense of pragmatism.

He said the newly-created New Zealand Infrastructure Commission provided an opportunity to further de-politicise the infrastructure decision making process, and seeking a more impartial way forward would be a ‘wise choice’ to reduce the boom-bust nature of construction work that was currently easily influenced under the three-year electoral cycle.

Mr Silcock also expressed concern around projects proposed for the South Island, or a lack thereof, as the programme seemed heavily North Island-focussed with sparse detail on proposals for Queenstown and underwhelming investment in the rest of the South Island.

He said as well as ‘playing catchup’ in areas with high growth, it was important to stimulate growth across the wider country using infrastructure as a means of regional economic development and making much-needed improvements to the southern transport network.

ENDS

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