Monday, February 26, 2024

Max Salmon: To Waste

I’ve always had a focus on New Zealand’s infrastructure issues. Like many other waste enthusiasts, I’ve been concerned about the likely impact of the incoming government’s focus on cost-efficiency on our infrastructure outcomes. However, recent headlines have given me hope that we will continue to punch above our weight regarding rail infrastructure waste.

Kiwirail is a glowing example. It has built 18 kilometres of the Wairarapa line upgrade using too narrow a gauge, rendering it useless for passenger cars. As a profligate spending admirer, I am impressed. Kiwirail’s entirely in-house approach to design, construction, and certification has generated a shambles to aspire to. It sets a new gold-standard for the nation .

Cost blowouts on Auckland’s City Rail Link have also helped to keep us at the top of the international game. It remains the world’s most expensive metro rail project ever, at $1.5 billion per kilometre.

However, we ought not to rest on our laurels. Launched in 2011 and ongoing to this day, Britain’s HS2 (High Speed 2) rail project shows us how we might take fiscal irresponsibility to the next level.

The 2017 legislation for the HS2 project that granted HS2 Ltd the authority to acquire land was so detailed that its specifications extended to an incredible 50,000 pages.

It also allowed councils to request design changes and halt work. This led to lengthy legal battles, some of which were fuelled by council planning officers funded with HS2 money.

With over 8,000 consents and numerous court cases, such delays have gloriously inflated costs, with the total price currently at £67 billion. To cap it all off, the current iteration is massively truncated in size from the original plans.

This level of bureaucratic entanglement and self-destruction is wonderfully Kafkaesque. It’s an excellent demonstration of a system so enwrapped in process that it’s forgotten how to achieve outcomes.

If current trends persist, we have every reason to believe that before long, we’ll be able to stand alongside such excellent examples of infrastructure waste.

It’s a future worth fighting for, and that’s why I’ll be rooting for the political opposition as they prepare to make a stand against fast-tracked consenting and RMA (Resource Management Act) reform.

Max Salmon is a Research Intern at the New Zealand Initiative. He joins as a generalist, with interests in education, infrastructure, and energy. This article was first published HERE

No comments: