"Decoupling our economic prosperity from environmental damage and resource depletion is the single largest economic and environmental challenge of our time," says Julie Anne Genter.
The Green Party proposes reallocating around $10.4 billion of funding from state highway projects into public transport and rail over the next decade, aiming to deliver buses and trains every few minutes at peak hours, decongesting city roads and breathing new life into neglected rail networks.
The goal is to provide "smarter" transport, which align more with the needs and desires of New Zealanders. This will involve a $2.2 billion government investment in seven key public transport projects in Auckland by 2020, including $1.3 billion for the Auckland City Rail Link, to start immediately. Walkways and cycle ways will also be supported, with a 300 per cent increase in walking and cycling infrastructure proposed.
"The Green Party has proposed a suite of measures to help direct capital into clean energy low-carbon infrastructure," says Genter. "These include establishing a fair price on carbon and a comprehensive tax on capital gains (excluding the family home), and the establishment of a Green Investment Bank that specialises in the financing of new, currently unfunded opportunities in the green economy."
PricewaterhouseCoopers has estimated that the clean technology sector could be worth between $7.5 billion and $22 billion to the NZ economy by 2015, and the Green Party is seeking to ensure outcomes are at the higher end of forecasts.
The Green Party considers it is very difficult to commercialise the benefits of infrastructure investment, and believes involving private finance means the project inevitably costs more. For this reason, they are unlikely to finance infrastructure projects through the use of PPPs. "The private sector already competes to design, construct, and maintain our infrastructure. There would have to be very compelling evidence of value for money for us to consider using a PPP to procure new infrastructure."
A final priority for the Greens is water management, to protect New Zealand beaches, rivers and drinking water. "Increases in extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and aging infrastructure will continue to put more pressure on our ability to protect our beaches and rivers," Genter says. "We need to ensure there is adequate access to funding for councils to undertake the work they need to do." She suggests that it is important to consider the wider impacts of continual increases in polluting agriculture on our rivers and drinking water. This necessitates investment in source protection.
"There's not a trade-off between sustainability and prosperity - if we don't look after our environment we will not be better off, especially in the long term," explains Genter.
"Energy efficiency is economic efficiency, and New Zealand's competitive advantage in the world is our clean green brand. By investing in smart, green infrastructure, we can reduce costs and pollution, and create a healthier, more prosperous country."
Other parties like New Zealand First and internet Mana could also influence infrastructure policies if there is a change of government.
New Zealand First agrees with many of the broader aims of the transport policies the Greens are pursuing, particularly around encouraging the use of public transport, with an aim to "balance the roading needs of the main centres with the need to reduce the ever-growing dependence on the motorcar" .
A major policy platform for NZ First is ensuring none of NZ's railway lines, roads, or other strategic railways infrastructure are privatised. This is in line with their plan to create a state-owned company to acquire the assets of all state-owned energy companies, and merge their operations.
Re-establishing NZ ownership of key infrastructure is a key policy platform. Alongside this, New Zealand First aims to ensure he whole road network is properly maintained. This would ensure regional New Zealand does not lose out in favour of the major centres, and would allow farmers to get their produce to ports or processing plants on well-maintained roads.
With the internet Mana party emerging as a potential new force in this election, attention has also refocused to some extent on NZ's digital infrastructure. Currently, a total of 200,000 New Zealand households do not have internet access, either because they are unable to afford it, or because they lack the necessary confidence, knowledge or skills. Cheaper, universal internet access is a focus for the internet Party, and the goal is to reduce internet costs by 50 per cent. Achieving this will require the construction of an additional internet submarine cable connecting NZ to Australia and the US, to end the bandwidth monopoly. If this fails to lower prices for New Zealand internet service providers, the internet Party would call for government purchasing of bulk bandwidth through the use of a PPP.
The internet Party considers the provision of fibre broadband to be essential infrastructure if New Zealand is to become a global leader in the digital age. The current Ultra Fast Broadband programme will deliver fibre to 75 per cent of New Zealanders by 2020, and the internet Party aims to provide fibre to the remaining 22.8 per cent of households within the Rural Broadband Initiative coverage area. This will require investment by both government and private business interests, potentially in the form of innovate partnership arrangements with $200 million of new government investment needed over five years.