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Infrastructure blog

4 ways New Zealand strengthened its strategy for delivering infrastructure goals

20 June 2023

New Zealand has set up a strategic planning process to respond to its needs.

4 ways New Zealand strengthened its strategy for delivering infrastructure goals
New Zealand’s infrastructure strategy and action plan place society's needs at its heart. Image credit: Shutterstock

Strategic infrastructure planning isn’t a one-size-fits-all process.

Countries and national departments around the world have different national characteristics, political and governance considerations, and face varied challenges around planning for the future.

Some of these challenges include:

  • translating national needs to tangible actions and outcomes
  • actioning climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts
  • finding more resource-efficient ways of working
  • managing limited budgets
  • attracting external investors

In this blog, we use our Enabling Better Infrastructure (EBI) guidance as a framework to highlight four ways the New Zealand government set up its strategic approach to ensure it overcomes these challenges.

1. Setting up a systemic approach

Creating a systemic approach is critical for developing and actioning infrastructure policies and strategies.

This involves designing clear decision-making pathways and accountabilities between the government and other stakeholders.

This helps to define how needs, evidence, and outcomes are factored into the design and implementation of infrastructure strategies.

New Zealand has a clear political mandate and systemic approach for doing this.

The New Zealand government and the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission are key stakeholders responsible for infrastructure strategic planning.

The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission was set up in 2019 as an independent body for strategy development, procurement, and providing delivery advice.

It also plays a key role in monitoring and evaluating the impact of infrastructure decisions.

The commission developed an infrastructure strategy, and the government has since taken steps to take up some of these recommendations as part of their 2023 budget and action plan.

2. Translating national objectives into tangible actions

The New Zealand government has used the systemic approach it set up to translate its national vision into a series of actionable steps.

These steps are listed in New Zealand’s 2023 budget, released on 18 May, and in the accompanying action plan outlining how they will deliver on their vision.

At the centre of this vision are the people of New Zealand, with public wellbeing at its heart.

The action plan outlining 331 actions will:

  • strengthen partnerships and opportunities for collaboration
  • reduce emissions to reach net zero
  • boost the circular economy
  • create resilient and inclusive cities
  • improve resilience to shocks
  • strengthen planning, decision making, and funding and financing
  • support technology and innovation
  • develop workforce skills and capacity building

Our call for consultation on our updated EBI guidance aims to help government departments to translate national objectives to actionable outcomes.

Doing this will help them to deliver infrastructure outcomes that are longstanding and in ways that meet the needs of society, the economy, and the environment.

3. Agreeing on how activities will be actioned

Increasingly, countries need to reflect on how they implement their strategies rather than only focusing on their design and implementation.

The reason for this is two-fold.

Not only do governments need to consider how and where to build knowledge and capacity, but they also face up to the social injustices of the past.

Both of these can be addressed through how activities are delivered.

To build knowledge and capacity, the New Zealand government has identified that they need to ‘get smarter’ about planning and delivering infrastructure, identifying the following steps.

  1. Ensure infrastructure is resilient to weather events, climate change, and natural disasters.
  2. Improve infrastructure governance and investment decision making.
  3. Strengthen partnerships with local government and the private sector.
  4. Build the capability of the government to deliver and maintain infrastructure.

They have also identified that delivering social objectives through infrastructure is only one piece of the puzzle.

As outlined in their action plan and budget, steps have been taken to ensure infrastructure provides the same benefits for all.

They have committed to:

  • Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce in the infrastructure sector, including more women, Māori, Pasifika, and people with disabilities.
  • Respecting the principles of the Māori in resource planning and decision-making processes.
  • Building stronger partnerships with Māori, where infrastructure co-ownership is considered.
  • Reducing electricity bills by helping to make homes more energy efficientn.
  • Lowering the cost of public transport for young people.

4. Framing the infrastructure journey

Strategically planning infrastructure forms part of an ongoing process. No one country can excel at everything all the time.

Maintaining progress requires ongoing reflection and agility to respond to changing needs and priorities.

The New Zealand government has acknowledged this by:

  • Prioritising a focus on resilience. The budget and action plan outline where key steps have been taken to rebuild after climate change events, natural disasters, and flooding.
  • Recognising the action plan is ‘only part of the journey’. A second infrastructure strategy has been planned and forms an essential part of New Zealand’s long-term plan.

Building agility into the strategic planning process is now acknowledged as a key feature for delivering infrastructure outcomes.

This has also been seen in Canada’s methodology for setting up its first infrastructure assessment.

Get involved

Do you want to shape how governments plan and prioritise infrastructure? Respond to our EBI green paper programme!

  • Dr Kerry Bobbins, head of Enabling Better Infrastructure programme at ICE