It's no surprise that the Labour Government wants to make the most of its parliamentary majority to get its major infrastructure reforms under way by the 2023 election.
It couldn't get Auckland light rail up in the 2017-2020 parliamentary term because it was stymied by its then coalition partner, New Zealand First.
This is important because when international investors look at countries, political stability is foremost. That is the assurance that a different Government won't pull the plug on projects that their predecessor has committed to. While public-private partnerships (PPPs) are not contemplated for the Auckland light rail project, and the four regional water authorities will be publicly-owned, there will be associated opportunities for private investment.
There has been considerable political noise from Labour's opponents over the suitability and cost of the three big calls. There is broad support from National for the third harbour crossing. But the two other major projects? Not yet.
At the 2020 election, then National Leader Judith Collins said Auckland's motorway network was now nearly complete. "The motorway network will remain absolutely essential in the rapidly approaching era of zero-carbon, self-driving, electric and hydrogen cars and trucks."
National's Plan was to complete Auckland's rapid transit network and it has yet to waver from it. The party has been opposed to light rail.
But behind the scenes briefings have been under way, with Transport Minister Michael Wood taking National MPs David Bennett and Christopher Luxon through the Government's thinking.
Luxon has also been kicking the tyres on the Three Waters reforms saying the Government's model of four water entities would "strip control from communities and erode local democracy, putting ratepayer accountability at arm's length".
National has got up a petition to stop the water reforms but this will not stop the Government in its tracks.
Ironically, the Three Waters concept originated under the last National Government in mid-2017.
Robertson is sanguine. He says the Wood meeting on light rail was said to be constructive. "I'm pretty sure in principle there is agreement there, but politics can get in the way."
Building a new light rail case
Labour has been building a new strategic case for light rail in Auckland. Says Robertson: "One thing of the things that changed in the last few years is it is not just the 'CBD to the airport'. It's now much more about how it fits into broader transport networks."
This means the light rail project has to ultimately intersect with the planned second harbour crossing and proposed light rail lines further north and out to the West.
Preliminary work is under way on the second harbour crossing project with various agencies due to come back by March 2022 on options. "Time is marching on but we expect to be moving on this as well," says Robertson.
The Auckland light rail project effectively is about retrofitting infrastructure into an already built city.
The Government is presenting this as both a transport and urban development project.
Robertson concedes the project will put more pressure on Aucklanders who are already coping with a lot of infrastructure work under way through the City Rail Link project. "We've just got to work our way through it."
Further south, "Let's Get Wellington Moving", has to have a reset. He says there are four options on the table for people to work through. "Hopefully, Wellington City Council and Wellington Regional Council will also be prepared to put resources forward."
Big agenda in health
Robertson cites Dunedin hospital as an example of the investments that the Government is making in social infrastructure.
He says the Covid pandemic has exposed the fragility of the current health system with its multiple DHBs and different levels of pandemic preparedness.
Under the reforms, the Ministry of Health will be focused on policy, strategy and regulation while a new body, Health New Zealand, will take over the planning and commissioning of services and the functions of the existing 20 District Health Boards to remove duplication and provide true national planning.
A Māori Health Authority will work alongside Health NZ to improve services and achieve equitable health outcomes for Māori.
Robertson says there will also be a focused unit which will deal with pandemics.
Infrastructure for climate change
The Government is looking at everything from how to develop a hydrogen economy through to charging stations for electric vehicles and the electrification of public transport.
The Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act opened the way for special purpose project funding.
Several projects are now under way including a transport hub in Tauranga.
The Covid pandemic has had a big impact on supply chains and also led to escalating costs for materials such as timber and skills shortages.
"The Government is not immune to supply chain constraints," says Robertson. Central Government and Local Government between them account for roughly 60 per cent of infrastructure projects in New Zealand. "We are affected just as much as everyone else."
Cabinet has established a ministerial group to focus on supply chains. It is chaired by Minister Wood and includes Robertson, Foreign Affairs and Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta, Housing Minister Megan Woods, Environment Minister David Parker and Poto Williams who is Building and Construction Minister.
The group meets regularly in a forum with importers and exporters.
Robertson says they have seen some improvement domestically at Ports of Auckland which had seen hold-ups. There are good linkages with KiwiRail and the ports, and the prices of containers is starting to come down. "We are still getting goods in and out. But there are a lot of work arounds."
The Upper North Island supply chain project remains on the backburner.
"We can't do everything at once."