NZ Transport Agency and Government looking to support roading contractors during Covid-19 shutdown

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The NZ Transport Agency will make advance payments available to roading contractors so the industry will be ready to hit the ground running to deliver vital projects and help get New Zealand moving when the country moves out of the current level 4 Covid-19 alert lockdown.

At the same time, the Government has tasked a group of industry leaders to seek out infrastructure projects that are ready to start as soon as the construction industry returns to normal to reduce the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. These new projects will be in addition to and build on the Government’s $12 billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme and existing Provincial Growth Fund infrastructure investments.

The Infrastructure Industry Reference Group, to be headed by Crown Infrastructure Partners chairman Mark Binns, will put forward to ministers projects from the private and public sector that are ‘shovel-ready’ or likely to be within six months.

The group, which includes NZTA chairman Sir Brian Roche, KiwiRail chief executive Greg Miller and Infrastructure Commission chairman Alan Bollard as initial members, will work alongside the Provincial Development Unit.

A member of the Construction Industry Accord will join the group and the recently established Infrastructure Commission will also provide advice and expertise, however ministers will make the final decisions.

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford and Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones say the Government will decide which projects could be funded, contracted and ready to go as soon as the construction workforce is able to return to work. Relevant government departments will also provide advice to ministers.

“The types of projects the Government would consider funding include water, transport, clean energy and buildings. They would also have a public or regional benefit, create jobs and be able to get under way in short order,” Twyford says.

The reference group will be seeking out larger projects, those with a value of over $10 million, which would have an immediate stimulatory effect on the construction industry, its workforce and the economy.

“Smaller projects will be considered if they demonstrate a direct and immediate benefit to the regional economies and communities in which they are based. In the meantime, the Provincial Development Unit will continue to work with local councils to identify regional roading projects, particularly in the identified surge regions, to provide employment and boost local economies.

“These projects will help address the country’s infrastructure deficit as well as create jobs and buoy the economy,” Jones says.

While critical state highway maintenance work is continuing to be carried out in order to ensure the safe movement of essential goods and to provide support for lifeline functions during New Zealand’s current Covid-19 response, all non-essential work on capital projects was halted when the country entered level 4 last week.

NZTA general manager transport services Brett Gliddon says support is being offered for non-essential services in the form of advance entitlement payments for contractors with projects currently in construction as part of the National Land Transport Programme (NLTP). He says the state highway projects being delivered across New Zealand through the NLTP will be needed more than ever when New Zealand gets back to work after the shutdown period.

Gliddon says the road construction industry had responded quickly to NZTA’s call to shut down capital projects and stop other non-essential work during the level 4 Covid-19 alert.

“While this work stoppage is necessary to help break the chain of transmission of Covid-19, we recognise that it has major implications for our contractors and for sub-contractors who are committed to delivering a huge programme of work for New Zealand. Making advance payments available is the right thing to do and it will ensure that contractors have a workforce ready and able to get stuck in to the job of delivering crucial infrastructure for New Zealand when these restrictions are lifted. Not only does New Zealand need this infrastructure, its construction will now play a key role in the country’s economic recovery.”

Further information on NZTA’s support package of advanced entitlement payments for contractors who currently have NLTP funded projects in construction with NZTA can be found at www.nzta.govt.nz/covid19-aep 

More information on the work of the Infrastructure Industry Reference Group and the project criteria will be available on the Crown Infrastructure Partners website: https://www.crowninfrastructure.govt.nz/iirg/