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A 30-year plan for infrastructure is coming

Photo: Todd Strode-Penny owner of TSP Construction, Minister Chris Bishop, THCL Chair Brendan Duffy.   Photography Vicki Timpson THCL 

When it comes to infrastructure, the current minister in charge has his eyes set well beyond the Government’s term.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop identified the ability to plan as a weakness that needed to be rectified, during a meeting with business leaders in Horowhenua this week.

He said that planning needed to span decades.

“One thing we do not well is plan ahead, but we are working on a 30-year plan for infrastructure with the Infrastructure Commission, a body set up by the previous Labour Government with cross-party co-operation,” Bishop said.

He said the commission was an independent crown entity tasked with formulating a credible plan with a priority list. 

“Infrastructure is a big focus for us and yes we are looking at combined public and private partnership to push some of the projects through earlier than planned.”

On the Ōtaki to North of Levin highway, Bishop said: “Ō2NL is an absolute bottom line commitment for us, we will build it, we will fund it ... we have an aggressive plan for roading with 14 new roads of significance around the country. They save lives and unlock communities.”

Dubbed the minister of everything by Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden, Bishop, the Minister of Housing, Minister for Infrastructure, Minister Responsible for RMA Reform, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Leader of the House, and Associate Minister of Finance, was in Levin to talk about aspects of his portfolio.

Wanden said he was optimistic for the future of the region now that the expressway was secured. “We are well placed to meet the challenge ahead,” he said.

Bishop commented on Horowhenua being a growing and very important region for the country. 

He said the Government was doing everything possible to right the ship by controlling spending and debt, which is painful.

Government spending increased by 83 per cent over the past six years, he said. 

“The economy hasn’t grown in the last two years. We now pay more in interest repayments than we pay for health, education and police force combined. Some of that spending was due to Covid-19 and necessary, but the Government just kept on spending.

“We are going for growth. Growth can solve most problems, at the moment we have 4 per cent each year.

“We need more nurses, policemen, teachers, midwives, correction officers, not consultants and contractors. The gravy train is over. It will take years to turn this around,” Bishop said.

“Reducing public service is a deliberate decision, there are 18,500 more back office staff that there were six years ago and we want them on the frontline. Christopher Luxon has said he wants this to be a government of infrastructure: and that includes roads, rail, water services, and electricity.”

Spending is deliberately conservative and that will be revealed in next month’s Budget, Bishop said.

"Ō2NL is an absolute bottom line commitment for us, we will build it, we will fund it".

When it comes to housing he said the Government is thinking of apartments and medium density housing. 

“We need to go up. Housing is too expensive to build, too expensive to develop and too expensive for people to get access to home ownership.

“We are making changes to the RMA to make it faster and cheaper to do anything. Plan changes and subdivisions take too long. It takes eight years to get consents through for a windfarm and two years to build it, for example. It takes too long and costs too much.”

Consents for new infrastructure are currently costing $1.3 billion a year, he said. “By the end of 2026 we will have a new RMA, which will be freedom-enhancing, based on property rights,” he said.

He gave high praise to local MP Tim Costley, who was instrumental in getting both Bishop and the Prime Minister in Levin this week.

“He is a very vocal advocate for you and constantly pipes up in caucus.”