Focusing on Infrastructure


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With the new government now installed and numerous local infrastructure projects at various stages of planning and completion, Bay of Plenty Business News’ David Porter asks the experts: “What’s in store for BOP businesses in 2024?”

Meeting the Bay of Plenty’s needs to improve transport and infrastructure is likely to dominate locally for the new coalition government, say political and business sources.

“We have old methods of doing things that don’t lend themselves to getting this done,” Nigel Tutt, chief executive of the business-oriented organisation Priority One, told the Bay of Plenty Business News.

He noted that a disproportionately high chunk of an estimated $200 billion in estimated deficit expenditure on infrastructure needed nationwide would be in the region because the area had grown so rapidly.

“We need to unlock land and improve access to the port,” said Tutt.

“Ongoing we want this government to be helpful for businesses, particularly for exporters as that’s really been an area of neglect,” he said.

Brad Olsen, Principal economist, Infometrics: “That means [there’ll be] some pretty significant [budget] prioritisation so it will be important for the region to highlight its needs and make sure it’s on the priority list.”

Brad Olsen, chief executive and principal economist at Infometrics, noted that everywhere in the country was competing for funding and the government had been clear it didn’t have an unlimited amount to play with. “That means [there will be] some pretty significant prioritisation so it will be important for the region to highlight its needs and make sure it’s on the priority list,” said Olsen.

It was time for the Bay of Plenty to get involved in these areas, given the need to unlock additional infrastructure, housing and transport, he said.

And more importantly for the government, he added, they’ve got the backing of their electorate.

“Just as in the past, we’ve [the electorate] voted for what we want and it’s up to the government to deliver. That’s been a big focus of the government and they’ll be held to it.”

It is ironic that Luxon has been widely panned in the media for not coming from a more traditional parliamentary background. This rather overlooked the political qualities that had secured his previous top corporate role.

Ousted former prime minister Chris Hipkins has been involved in politics since his days as a university student and was first elected to parliament in 2008. However, once he was asked to take over as prime minister, he failed to distinguish himself as a political leader, though he seems to be performing better in opposition.

“I’m not sure what a stereotypical politician is any more and that’s a good thing,” noted Olsen. “You do want a broader range of life experiences.”

MMP and its implications

If the recent elections showed anything, it was that New Zealanders have become fully aware of the positives and negatives that come with Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) elections. It would appear that having delivered convincing victories to the Labour Party for two terms, a majority of the electorate decided it was time for a change.

There has been pushback from some sections of the electorate that formerly favoured and influenced the outgoing government, particularly on issues around workplace relations, healthcare and Māori issues. Despite these criticisms, the previous government’s record in all these areas also attracted complaints.

And while the recent election saw a major swing back towards National, it also delivered a significant weighting to both ACT and NZ First.

As a result, the drawn-out negotiations between the parties for a new three-way coalition government took some time and were mostly absent the leaks that enlivened reporting on such negotiations previously.

Tom Rutherford, Nigel Tutt and Sam Uffindell

The nature of MMP

Tom Rutherford, the newly elected National MP for Bay of Plenty, commented that this simply reflected the nature of MMP.

“This is the first real coalition of three parties sitting around the cabinet table,” said Rutherford, who replaced retiring MP Todd Muller.

“It took time because we’re making decisions for three years – and hopefully six or nine. We didn’t want to rush the talks because it needs to last the balance of the government.”

Rutherford said that now the agreement had been reached, the coalition government needed to start getting things done.

“We’re deeply aware we need to get things right,” he said.

“The biggest thing I noted during the election was that the community voted for change – people were tired after six years.”

Rutherford emphasized that the biggest issues locally for the new government included reducing transport and congestion issues around the city. They were also keen to ensure democracy was restored once the appointed commissioners finished their term in 2024.

Rebuilding the economy

Sam Uffindell, who was re-elected for National in Tauranga, told the Bay of Plenty Business News the focus of the coalition government would be on rebuilding the economy, addressing the cost-of-living crisis, and improving law and order New Zealand-wide. Those issues would definitely be in play in Tauranga, he said.

“Locally transport stands out,” he added. “We want to make sure we are investing in the transport infrastructure we really need.”

Uffindell said one of his key roles would be advocating to ministers for Tauranga as much as he could, and making sure they understood how strategically important Tauranga was.

“We are part of the ‘golden triangle’ and home to the biggest port in the country.”

Uffindell said he was also keen to get people back into Tauranga city centre. “Commercial developments are coming into the area … we need those people.”

The council also needed to be mindful of people’s concerns around parking, he said.

“We need to make sure transport links are working into and across the city and that people can readily access them.”

Priority One’s Nigel Tutt emphasised that the main need was for the region to get set up for years ahead – not run out of development cash again.

“We want a set plan for a number of years,” said Tutt. “We just need to sharpen our game.”

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