Happy con­trac­tors, Ki­wirail reckon Bud­get is good for NZ

New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Front Page -

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

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