I doubt there would be many Auckland motorists who haven't noticed a massive improvement in Auckland traffic flows since the opening of the Waterview tunnel.

This is the sort of difference infrastructure investment is designed to deliver, with the now-obvious downstream social and economic benefits that are flowing to Auckland residents.

When they opened the new tunnel it was almost like a plug being pulled on Auckland traffic congestion.

For me, going to the city for a meal used to be a nightmare. I had to leave by 3.30pm to have a hope of getting there by 6pm because the traffic was completely unreliable and most often stalled.


I live in South Auckland and the commute used to be an hour to 90 minutes. Now I can do it in 45 minutes.

The change to the congestion in Auckland is stark. Traffic flows relatively freely throughout the day now, including that afternoon rush hour. The tunnel has had a huge impact on commuters right across Auckland.

Saving half an hour in the car isn't just a productivity improvement - it's extra time with the family, more time to do the things you want to, instead of being stuck on the motorway.

This type of impact on communities, large or small, is why we go to work each day.

Because we know we can, and do, make a real difference to the day-to-day lives of the people who live and work in our country.

The most recent five years have seen a greater level of sustained spend on infrastructure improvements than at any time in the past, and that trend looks like continuing.

You only have to look at the changes to road quality on the journey from North Auckland to Hamilton to see the huge improvements to the highway network over the last five year period.

In the next three years, when construction is completed on sections from Hampton Downs to Rangiriri, Huntly to Taupiri and the Hamilton Bypass, motorists will have the luxury of a four-lane expressway from Warkworth in the north to Cambridge at the southernmost point of the current extensions.


This is a huge improvement, and a real investment in the long-term economic growth of the region.

In addition to what has already been achieved there is a significant pipeline of new work currently in bid and the list of new projects continues to flow into the market. It's an exciting time in the infrastructure sector.

It is really encouraging to see our politicians have recognised there has been a historic underspend on infrastructure, and that they need to be part of the delivery cycle to ensure funding is made available to create the assets New Zealand needs to continue to prosper.

The bottom line is, if we don't choose to spend on infrastructure, the economy will lose momentum, our large industrial centres will grind to a halt and investment in our regional centres will become harder to attract.

All this increase in demand within the construction sector generally has placed, and continues to place, immense pressure on skills, capital and people.

I imagine there is no company in our sector now that does not have issues with a shortage of key skills and talent.


An easy example is the demand for construction-capable people within the lower North Island and in the wider Christchurch Kaikoura region. With the demand from projects in each of these areas there is a huge challenge for all industry participants to resource projects.

Costs are increasing commensurately and not just for the in-demand highly skilled roles; resources are short too. The latest Consumer Price Index figures show inflation in the construction sector is running at 6.8 per cent, well ahead of the 1.9 per cent inflation across the economy.

And as the country seeks to address the infrastructure deficit, and pursues larger scale projects that have not been seen in New Zealand before, significant pressures are being placed on contractors to assume risk previously held by clients.

Though this is a recent shift in New Zealand, the trend toward risk transfer has been well-established in other countries for some time.

So despite the relatively strong pipeline, it is not all plain sailing.

It is no secret Fletcher Construction has suffered as a result of industry-wide pressures, coupled with our own internal challenges.


Mistakes are made, but what's important is learning from them and putting things right.

Construction is a dynamic, sometimes volatile business, as companies around the world have all experienced at one time or another.

For our part we have a significant programme of work under way to strengthen our business, and make changes we need to in order to deliver on the expectations of our shareholders, our clients, and of course our own people.

Though the infrastructure boom has brought its challenges, it has also brought us new opportunities - including the arrival of a range of new global players into New Zealand.

With scale, complex projects requiring construction techniques that have not been used before in New Zealand we are partnering with overseas firms to ensure we are harnessing the capability of these new technologies.

This is great news for the construction industry and for New Zealand because it builds our capability at a time when the construction industry needs to extend its skills.


In the medium term these changes will enhance our skills and help to build our national construction capability.

New Zealanders are resilient and innovative.

At Fletcher Construction we've been at the forefront of some of the most innovative designs, ideas and construction solutions on some of the most challenging and complex projects this country has ever seen.

We are proud of our achievements and are well resourced to face the challenges of the next 10 years.

- David Geor is General Manager, Fletcher Infrastructure.