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IPW: New Zealand’s post-disaster resilience, and South Africa’s response to growing infrastructure woes

28 February 2023

In this week’s Infrastructure Policy Watch, New Zealand’s resilience to environmental shocks, and concerns over South Africa's infrastructure pipeline.

IPW: New Zealand’s post-disaster resilience, and South Africa’s response to growing infrastructure woes
South Africa’s infrastructure requires urgent action. Image credit: Shutterstock

After disasters: New Zealand reflects on its infrastructure resilience

New Zealand has recently endured a spate of natural disasters.

Reflections in the media have brought the country’s resilience into question, revealing the realities of ensuring national infrastructure can withstand shocks.

The following natural disasters have affected communications, electricity, road, and water systems across the country during February this year:

  • Cyclone Gabrielle affected infrastructure in the Gisborne district.
  • 6.1 Magnitude earthquake in the Kapiti Coast District.

Cyclone Gabrielle

Cyclone Gabrielle has been flagged as ‘hugely traumatic’ by New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.

Critical infrastructure has been severely affected, creating challenges for recovery efforts.

Some residents have been stranded in parts of the district, and emergency supplies have been supplied.

Roads will need to be moved in future to ensure they are ‘more resilient’. This same sentiment was echoed across all other strategic infrastructure.

Earthquake in Kapiti Coast District

On the contrary, local responses to the earthquake in the Kapiti Coast District signalled key learnings from two prior events in 2011 in Christchurch (magnitude of 6.3) and 2016 in Kaikōura (magnitude of 7.8).

Learnings included:

  • Incorporating resilience into road plans, including moving people outside the city.
  • Mapping roads most affected and taking preliminary measures where possible to prevent rock falls.
  • Identifying roads less likely to be affected to direct efforts for post-disaster recovery before events strike.
  • Improvements to buildings considered vulnerable to shocks.

The ICE’s view:

Acknowledging the risk of natural disasters, including putting in place contingencies, is becoming more pressing since the onset of the climate crisis.

Enhancing resilience is a continuous process, where learning is key to creating policies and standards for reducing the impacts of shocks. This involves significant changes and refinements through lessons learned.

The Enabling Better Infrastructure programme (EBI) supports assessing the national characteristics of countries as a precursor to setting up infrastructure plans (see Principle 4). This includes the risk of natural disasters.

Setting up information hubs, such as the one set by Chartered Accountants, can help share information rapidly and limit emerging risks.

South Africa’s national infrastructure pipeline requires an urgent response

In a recent government report, the presidency of South Africa has identified the need for an urgent response to address its infrastructure pipeline.

Insufficient capacity and inefficient policy frameworks have impacted the country’s ability to create a ‘robust, credible and bankable project pipeline’ with profound implications for service delivery.

The challenges are owed to limited technical expertise and an inadequate institutional landscape to attract private sector finance, making it difficult to attract investment in infrastructure.

There have been growing concerns around energy which is now classified as a national ‘emergency’, with rolling blackouts lasting up to 12 hours per day.

The following infrastructure is also in a critical state:

  • ports
  • freight-rail lines
  • power plants
  • metropolitan roads
  • state schools
  • public hospitals

The report identified an urgent response was needed, including:

The ICE’s view:

The EBI programme acknowledges the value of building bankable project pipelines, where it offers significant benefits for society, environment, and the economy.

The institutional landscape and ramifications of State Capture make attracting finance to create robust, credible and bankable project pipelines in South Africa challenging. Limited investment has implications for all stages of the infrastructure lifecycle.

Learning from other countries facing similar challenges can help to boost the impact of action taken by the South African government. The EBI programme also supports these and other learnings to support the strategic planning and prioritisation of infrastructure.

In case you missed it...

  • Ever wondered why local communities are not yet seeing the benefits of levelling up? See more in our blog by Laura Cunliffe-Hall.
  • New report calls for government action to make UK infrastructure decision-making more streamlined.
  • See more on the ICE’s involvement in framing the challenge for the next 30 years of UK Infrastructure.
  • Dr Kerry Bobbins, head of Enabling Better Infrastructure programme at ICE