Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones said that there are many challenges in front of Government when it comes to stepping up the infrastructure pace.
"Just talking in the context of the recent Adrian Orr decision — even if we do increase our appetite for more infrastructure projects and expenditure — we've inherited a system that has calcified,” he said, commenting on the decision by the Reserve Bank Governor to drop the OCR to 1 per cent to stimulate economic activity.
"We have placed so many red-tape barriers in front of us as a society that it's hardly credible to describe infrastructure spend as a short-term positive filler to the economy. Because to get the money circulating in infrastructure, you've got to jump through so many red-coloured hoops. So that's a problem and it's something I'm desperate for the Infrastructure Commission to look at."
The Minister revealed that he wrote to Associate Finance Minister David Parker to look at critical issues with the Resource Management Act: “We need a more efficient and robust way of enabling ports to avoid nimbyism and for these big infrastructure assets to in short order secure their long term statutory consents. I think that the Infrastructure Commission can look at that.”
“The notion that our under-resourced, under-capitalised territorial and regional councils can deal with these sorts of applications in an expeditious fashion, I don't believe that's the case,” he added.
"It requires us to change our current thinking. I guess a frustration in Infrastructure is there's thousands of reasons why we're not doing things, but it's very rare you find an opportunity to actually do something. In my view the whole system needs to be inverted so we have more of the latter."
Minister Jones believes a future Government should create a Cabinet Infrastructure Committee given infrastructure's importance, saying it is more than transport projects such as the Waterview Tunnel but also includes Watercare’s vital infrastructure, and the building of the new Dunedin Hospital.
"So, when you add that level of economic activity, before you start counting local government and private sector, it's a damn good idea for senior ministers to create an infrastructure committee”.
The Minister said that to expedite infrastructure in New Zealand, “you can’t leave it to the bureaucracy”.
"They are often struggling to divine what politically are our priorities or if they do, they don't know how to implement them and you can't leave it solely to the private sector because they're getting frustrated they're not getting a clear steer,” he added.