Saturday, February 18, 2023

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Too often we do things on the cheap

Hopefully one of the lessons we learn from the awful destruction caused by this cyclone is that we cannot do the rebuild from this on the cheap.

Too often we do things on the cheap. 

Take for example what’s just happened to the electricity; one of the biggest problems right now is a lack of power. At the worst, almost a quarter of a million people had no power, and currently it’s still in the tens of thousands. All over the North Island: Northland, Auckland, the Coromandel, Tairawhiti, Hawkes Bay, and it might be as long as two weeks before some of these people get electricity.

Part of that is because we built the electricity network on the cheap.

We chose to put our power lines above us on poles—the cheaper option—instead of underground where they would be less likely to be disrupted by weather like we’ve just had.

We are now paying for that decision.

The same is true of our roading network.

We've cut costs there too. Now let’s be fair, the roads were always going to take a hammering. This storm was unprecedented; it’s the biggest we’ve ever seen, but our roads were in trouble before this storm. The one that came through a couple of weeks earlier caused the massive slip on the main road into the eastern side of the Coromandel, and shut the Brynderwyns heading into Northland.

I really hope we don’t forget this lesson; it's going to cost us a lot to rebuild after this cyclone. Grant Robertson was reluctant to put a figure on it, but it’ll be many billions of dollars when you think that the Auckland flooding three weeks ago alone will cost 1 billion dollars, and that’s just to fix the roads. 

So we’re talking several tens of billions probably. 

Add to that the $210 billion we already knew we needed to spend on infrastructure just to catch up to before the cyclone struck. 

Let's be honest:

We can’t afford to fix every single thing that just got destroyed; we can’t even afford to maintain the roads we run right now. We are a country the size of Japan, and yet we only have 5 million people here to pay for the roads in comparison to their 125 million people. 

We are going to have to choose: either we fix everything for cheap, or we fix the very important stuff and do it properly. 

I hope we remember the lesson about what happens if you choose the cheap option: it runs fine when the weather is good, but it falls over easily.

And when it falls over we’ll wish we’d paid the money and done it properly. 

Heather du Plessis-Allan is a journalist and commentator who hosts Newstalk ZB's Drive show.


Robert Arthur said...

HDPA should stick to what she knows. The f.o. is underground and also failed. Overhead plant is less susceptible and far more easily restored.
The problem in Napier is a sub station on low land on flood plains which have flooded many times since European occupation. When built in the 1920s power was less critical; all homes had a firepalce if not a wood/coal stove. With all in private hands there is little incentive for great securiy.All those flood plains on which NZ is built were not provided at Creation.gretaer attention to stop bank integrity seems necessary. in recent times caused havoc in Manawatu and Edgecumbe.

Ewan McGregor said...

Give us a break! We're still picking ourselves up out of the mud from the worst weather event in our nation's history. Keep the advice on what we should have done for later.

Unknown said...

I would think that it will be a repair and reveiw on all fronts. Infrastructure and housing long-term solutions will need to migrate towards a focus on relocation as the best-fit solution. If the primary focus and criteria was set along lines of if it can be moved quickly it will be cost effective and adaptable, in the long run it will prove to be the best solution.

More tiny homes and houses on stilts - with detachable or non intergrated/integral systems like self containment.
We all need to accept and encourage that capacity to hold drinking water and gray water and disconnection from council provided services will be a way forward.

In the future above-ground services may be best? I think we should develop a universal infrastructure connection detachment strategy. We need robust energy supply and different delivery systems. We need the future solutions now - hydrogen cells, chemical heat sink systems, solar and wind integration into homes. Think self containmen and mobility - apply a different approach. Lance.