Unitary Plan promises better infrastructure future for Auckland, says Robert Jones
As many a home renovator has discovered to their cost, there's really nothing quite as risky as embarking on a home transformation without a clear and fully-costed picture of the end game.
How many new home builders have been caught out by not agreeing with their builder a cost plan and programme and then finding that as they run out of money, they then have to compromise on their dream kitchen or bathroom suite?
The lesson about having a clear picture of the end game is even more important when it comes to renovating, retrofitting and revving up the city's infrastructure for another 50-100 years as we pursue the mantle of the world's most liveable city.
Our city is growing fast - according to Statistics New Zealand, the past seven years has seen Auckland city add 110,592 new family members - that's like adding the entire city of Tauranga to our population. Further growth is almost certain.
LiIn a way, the Unitary Plan is our city's picture of the end game. Like a husband and wife huddling over the kitchen table with the "reno" plans, there was some staunch debate. Now we have a single, integrated unitary plan, a huge step-up from the diverse visions, standards and services spanning the topographical twists and turns of the previous eight city and regional authorities.
We have embraced the Unitary Plan because it promises a better infrastructure future for Auckland. This is Fulton Hogan's 80th year in the business of building communities and in that time we've seen and heard the full spectrum for planning and commissioning of infrastructure; from "oi you build us a road", to our own recent world cup of bid preparation - our joint-venture proposal to build the Transmission Gully highway under a PPP arrangement.
As you would expect, some Auckland-based agencies are setting the standard in smart system design and procurement. Auckland Transport and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) are leading the way with clear forward works programmes which they communicate and explain to the industry, and their utilisation of different and innovative procurement methods to achieve the best value for every dollar spent on building and maintaining our new roads and motorways. They are closely followed by the Auckland Council-owned Watercare which also have a vision and plan for how this city will need to be serviced with drinking water and waste water disposal in the years to come.
Each of these agencies has a clear long-term strategy for engagement with the construction industry which is notably absent in the approach of many other major procurement agencies around the country.
But why should any of this matter to anyone other than Fulton Hogan and other contractors in the industry?
Because an Auckland city that plans, designs and buys infrastructure smartly and with a well-signalled pipeline of projects, is one that maintains a healthy level of competition on the supplier side and maximises the opportunity for a "one dig" approach. We've all seen the waste in the past when one agency digs up the road to lay pipes, and another does it again, weeks later, to lay the cables.
It means we have a civic construction sector well-geared up with the right people and equipment to deliver the often hidden systems and services with the least stress and disruption for Aucklanders who just want to get on with their busy lives and shoulder the least rates possible.
Margaret Thatcher once famously said - "You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure." To the Iron Lady it may not have seemed like rocket science, but for Auckland's people a well-planned, well-connected infrastructure is pure gold.
Robert Jones is Chief Operating Officer (NZ Infrastructure) for Fulton Hogan