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Quick Take: Five things to note in the Aotearoa Infrastructure Strategy

New Zealand has just released its 30 year infrastructure strategy, setting the conditions for how it wants its infrastructure systems to shape opportunities for the region in the future.

And I should note, this is the first infrastructure strategy ever created for Aoetearoa. But its a good one, and I encourage all to read read it.

Here are five observations I made after reading the document, that put a smile on my face:

  1. It's all about people and place. The acknowledges that "infrastructure lays a foundation for the people, places and businesses of Aotearoa New Zealand to thrive for generations". It recognises Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) as the constitutional foundation of Aotearoa, and it draws on concepts of te ao Māori to think about infrastructure from the broad perspectives of wellbeing (oranga), kaitiaki (guardianship and stewardship), integration, longevity and connection to place.

  2. Rapidly adopting and diffusing new technologies. This is one of the many guiding principles along side others that work in harmony, such as 'infrastructure decisions provide value for money' and 'enhancing wellbeing of all New Zealanders, including the vulnerable". This is not a nice to have burried deep in the bowles of the document, but rather as a supporting principle to the overall 30 year vision.

  3. A Digital Strategy for Aotearoa. In preparing for a net zero future, the government acknowledges the need to prepare for change. Along with climate action is the stated commitment to prepsre a fit-for-purpose Digital Strategy for the nation.

  4. Transport related carbon emissions. With transport making up 38% of New Zealand’s non-agricultural emissions, the challenge to reverse this trend is no walk in the park. The percentage of electric vehicles in Aotearoa's light-vehicle passenger fleet is projected to grow from less than 1% to 93% by 2050. Electric vehicles are expected to account for more than half of the additional electricity New Zealanders are going to need by 2050. This is going to be interesting to see how this play's out in the street!

  5. Investing in digital innovation can have better returns than investing in physical infrastructure. They said it, not me! Yes, this statement sits squarely in the Strategy where it discusses its plans for accelerating the use of technology. And I love this: "Regional spatial plans should aspire to give industry more certainty in investing in technology and developing capabilities, particularly when combined with a clear long-term direction on the pipeline of infrastructure work". And Section 7.4 has more goodness like that in it.

So, what's next for the Strategy?

The strategy makes 68 recommendations to central government, local government and the infrastructure sector in general - all identified as being deliverable. And that's a good start.

The first decade of the 30 year strategy is front-loaded, so swift implementation seems to be the key. By the end of this decade the aspiration is to have most of the recommendations implemented (can I note the neat graphic presented as Figure 38 transparently outlining the time frames). And in Figure 39 (below) the strategy identifies the split of recommendations by sector

The Strategy is now in the hands of the Minister for Infrastructure, who has six months to provide the government's response.

Let's hope that six months is used used to firm up government commitment to implementation and that digital urbanism in Aotearoa thrives under this new infrastructure era.

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