Happy contractors, Kiwirail reckon Budget is good for NZ
THE BUDGET’S BIG INVESTMENT IN infrastructure is “a win for everyday Kiwis” as well as contractors, Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock believes.
It will enable the civil construction industry “to create jobs and take a lead role in NZ’s economic recovery”– enabling the upgrade of community infrastructure such as roads and water networks.
Silcock says that the extra infrastructure spending will also allow the industry “to catch up on the country’s deferred maintenance and upgrade existing infrastructure to be fit for purpose in the present day.
“Upgrading NZ’s infrastructure will serve the country well in the long term. It will also enable the civil construction industry to provide meaningful employment for those who may have lost their jobs, as well as retaining the skills in our current workforce.”
Helping people upskill will require close attention to enable people to transition smoothly, with skills such as abseiling or driving heavy vehicles readily transferable, while some others will need “considerable re-training.”The industry welcomes opportunities to work closely with Government and the broader training and education sector.
Silcock says that, “to be truly effective” the Budget’s investment will need to extend to the regions and the many small to medium employers in the industry, who work on regional works as well as subcontracting on big-ticket projects like the Manawatu Gorge Replacement, the Christchurch Northern Corridor or Auckland’s City Rail Link.
“While it’s important to give the economy a boost, this needs to be sustainable. The last thing we want to do is create a boom/bust situation. To create sustainable employment and better community outcomes, investment needs to be well-planned and phased over time.”
Silcock says that the NZ Infrastructure Commission was established to help take a planned approach and manage the infrastructure work pipeline, and dialogue between Government and industry has been vastly improved since the creation of the Construction Sector Accord.
Says Silcock: “Infrastructure investment is not just about building roads. It’s about building better public infrastructure for liveable communities. It’s about improving water and wastewater networks to make sure rivers and lakes aren’t polluted – and about making our roads safer.”
He raises one potential problem created by the severe limitations on international travel to contain the spread of COVID-19 – the availability of specialist civil construction experts like geotechnical engineers and project managers.
“In the past a high proportion of these people were recruited from offshore on a permanent, semi-permanent or fly-in, fly-out basis,” he explains.
The Budget’s $1.2billion investment in rail will help KiwiRail attract more customers and get more freight on rail, group chief executive Greg Miller says.
It follows a $1bn contribution in Budget 2019 and will earmark $400m for replacement of the ageing Interislander ferries and $421m to continue a locomotive replacement programme.
Another $246m – plus a $148m National Land Transport Fund “top-up” – go towards ensuring that the rail network, which includes more than 3000km of track, over 1000 bridges and nearly 100 tunnels, “is reliable and resilient.”
Miller says that the investment sends customers “a clear signal that rail has a big future and gives them the confidence to get on board.
“Our customers want to make greater use of rail and we’re seeing more road operators reach out for our support as their networks contract. We’re here to help them.
“This funding recognises that rail has a greater role to play in NZ’s transport sector, and that it can make a valuable contribution towards lowering our transport emissions, reducing road congestion and saving in road maintenance costs – which benefits our nation as a whole.”
Photo Nicola Topping The Budget’s big investment in infrastructure is a longterm win for the country – and will provide work for those who’ve lost jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic