The National Infrastructure Unit released the Infrastructure 2012: National State of Infrastructure Report in early November. This is the first of what will be annual reports (as required under the Government's 2011 National Infrastructure Plan) and provides an update on progress with and investment in infrastructure.

The report includes overviews from both the National Infrastructure Unit and the Independent National Infrastructure Advisory Board. These overviews highlight the unstable international financial climate as an emerging challenge facing infrastructure investment. However, the report also records a number of improvements being made in the infrastructure field, both in terms of recently approved or constructed projects but also more general improvements being made to strengthen the information available on the standard infrastructure and infrastructure investment.

The report provides an update on achievements, progress and risks within the various infrastructure sectors (transport, telecommunications, energy, water, and social) with a particular focus on the infrastructure challenges facing Auckland (to address future growth) and Christchurch (to facilitate the post-earthquake rebuild).

In terms of investment, the feedback from infrastructure providers has been centred on ensuring long-term certainty for investment decisions and the need to ensure that the regulatory and financial settings facilitate and incentivise the investment required.

The National Infrastructure Advisory Board has made a useful contribution to the report by including a number of think pieces on various infrastructure topics to "stimulate debate and encourage collaboration amongst decision-makers, funders, providers and users". These think pieces discuss concepts which will certainly be controversial, including:

  • providing water infrastructure in the Canterbury region by improving existing and enabling new irrigation infrastructure;
  • catering for Auckland's growth and the challenge of funding the transport programme outlined in the Auckland Plan. This programme totals some $10-15 billion of additional funding over 30 years (or an annual payment of over $700 million over 30 years - equivalent to a 50% increase in Auckland Council rates or up to 45 cents per litre regional petrol tax);
  • using targeted road pricing such as cordon pricing and tolls (including optional toll lanes) to manage congestion in Auckland over the medium / long term;
  • balancing the short term need to get Christchurch's infrastructure back up and running versus long term infrastructure gains and resilience; and
  • balancing infrastructure resilience against the cost of over engineering. Examples raised included the need (or not) for more than one submarine fibre cable network, a deep water port on both main islands, and splitting central government between two main centres.

The next report is due in mid 2013 with the next Infrastructure Plan due in 2014. The 2012 report notes that the 2014 Plan will need to be based on better information and reflect stronger coordination and collaboration across the whole infrastructure community. A copy of the full report is available here.