New Zealand’s national association for civil contractors has called for physical work on New Zealand’s water networks to not be undermined by the creation of four new water entities to manage the country’s freshwater, stormwater and wastewater.
Civil Contractors New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock says it was vital companies working to construct and maintain water infrastructure had certainty of work ahead and could continue expanding regional and national capability to address the ongoing infrastructure deficit right through the reform process.
“These are major reforms. But it’s important work in progress does not grind to a halt while reforms and changes come into force. We must retain the skilled workers who construct and maintain our water network. Planning, tendering and construction must continue.”
Silcock says it was important for businesses working to construct and maintain New Zealand’s three waters infrastructure that any reforms resulted in more efficiency, more transparency and better management rather than another layer of bureaucracy.
Despite the disruption caused by the reforms to transfer management to four new water entities, he said action was necessary given the coming water regulator Taumata Arowai and current ‘patchwork’ system of funding and financing for water infrastructure had led to underinvestment in water infrastructure maintenance and renewals over decades.
“I think we all know something has to change. Ultimately what we need from this reform is that our water infrastructure is in better shape 10 years down the track than it is today.
“Regardless of whether water infrastructure is operated by councils or water entities, our Three Waters networks should be well planned, well managed and funded to fully meet the needs of our communities and the environment.”
Silcock says the pooling of resources and information required to overcome the country’s massive water infrastructure deficit would be a ‘massive undertaking’. The proposed reforms brought risk of lost knowledge and capability as well as reward, and industry engagement would be especially important as the new entities came into being.
The reform programme should now engage with businesses working to construct and maintain the country’s water networks at all levels to ensure changes were practical and there would be opportunities for companies of all sizes, he says.