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Category Archives: New Zealand
COVID-19: What Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope wants for Christmas – New Zealand to have ‘smartest borders in the world’ – Newshub
Posted: December 19, 2021 at 7:00 pm
New Zealand has been too slow to use some of the technologies available, such as rapid antigen testing, Hope says.
Overseas, people are travelling more freely, with borders "very stop/start" due to variants.
"But for us it's been wholly stop," Hope says. "It hasn't started."
He's concerned the Omicron variant may push back plans to open the border to New Zealanders living in Australia in mid-January.
Many in the tourism sector have been "decimated" by the pandemic, and they desperately need the border to reopen, he says.
"So I do think, you know, as we kind of get further through the pandemic, we can both reduce risk, at the same time as enabling more cross border travel."
The self-isolation period should also be reduced to three days for low-risk countries, as we won't have an effective tourism sector with a week-long stand-down period, he says.
There are also massive people constraints. While businesses might have products and services and customers to buy them - they sometimes don't have the staff to operate.
"So part of my wish list is to get very clear about the skills that we need in New Zealand and for the government to be much, much more open about who we bring into New Zealand to help the economy grow.
"We must think about what our immigration policy looks like, in a way that enables businesses to meet what is very clear demand for goods and services, and that's been heavily constrained. It will impede us massively going forward."
While some businesses have gone "gangbusters" this year, the tourism sector and the hospitality and retail associated with it continue to suffer most - and that's why a smart border is so crucial, Hope says.
"So you know, there are many people who have lost their businesses. And that has been incredibly challenging over this two-year period, for people's livelihoods and mental health - and in a much more negative health way than perhaps if they'd caught Covid.
"Because it's so ongoing for many people and in some cases there's simply no way out. They just had to abandon their business and take another job."
While there was a lot of focus on wage subsidies and resurgence payments, there has been a lack of sector-specific support, Hope says.
"So my wish list is that the government wake up and actually understand and walk a few miles in those people's shoes. Because the ongoing health implications of losing your business are extremely severe. It will have long-term repercussions."
Posted: at 7:00 pm
December 18 2021There were 39 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today and 10 new cases in MIQ. Video / NZ Herald
As we head into the third year of the pandemic, a group of distinguished international scientists has published an opinion piece arguing that vaccine strategies need to shift focus from trying to stop infection, and move towards the prevention of severe disease and global equity in achieving high adult coverage.
Published in medical journal The Lancet on Friday, the article was authored by all 15 current members of the World Health Organisation's peak vaccine advisory group - the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), who note that the recent emergence of Omicron as the fifth variation of concern has threatened confidence in vaccine protection.
Professor Peter McIntyre from University of Otago is the lead author for the piece, and says New Zealand needs to get its objective straight as it heads into 2022.
New Zealand has a lot to celebrate, he says.
The strategy of elimination it pursued before the advent of vaccines was far and away the most effective, with death rates more than 100 times lower than many countries that opted for other strategies.
But it meant New Zealand has had to rely on gaining high vaccine coverage rates because we had little immunity from the effects of Covid-19 - so it is terrific we are now among the most vaccinated countries in the world, Professor McIntyre says.
The important question now is where do we want to get to, he says.
Covid-19 is a severe illness that hits elderly people and those with health problems particularly hard.
"Our focus going forward needs to continue to be on those severe cases," he said.
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"If we over time end up with Covid circulating widely and causing, as the current coronaviruses [do] ... they cause colds, about 20 percent of colds, it's just that we weren't testing for them ... They've always been there, but they were mild and we didn't worry about them too much.
"So what our objective has to be is to tame Covid with vaccines into something that we are OK about because we know it's not going to send you to hospital or kill you."
It will take time for the country to move away from the pre-vaccine era where every case identified is treated as "a disaster".
There is still "an incredible intensity of testing" which has meant people going to hospital for other reasons have ending up being counted as Covid-19 positive cases.
"There is a need for a kind of shift. It's going to take a little while because people are understandably very nervous ... But I think we do have to have a shift over time from focusing on every infection to saying: OK infection is here, we have to deal with it but what we really care about is ensuring we're protecting with anti-virals, boosters, with whatever we have got at our disposal, protecting people vulnerable still to severe illness."
Professor McIntyre says laboratory staff "have been smashed" by the amount of testing they have to do for Covid-19 and sooner or later they will need to reduce this testing to allow a focus on other diseases.
While the country is in a privileged position because of its high vaccination rate, it remains vital to get groups such as Mori and those who are uncertain "over the line".
New Zealand needs to keep the number of infections down, but we "don't need to be on the edge of our seats" about every case now that vaccines are widely available, he says.
McIntyre says the world is incredibly lucky to have seen the development of vaccines that work so well against severe disease.
He would argue against lockdowns and blocking flights now that the country has achieved its 90 percent double vaccinated for those who are eligible.
No parts of New Zealand are now lowly vaccinated, he says.
"To be honest countries around the world, if they looked at 90 percent double vaccinated, that would be in their dreams - even high income European countries, it would be in their dreams.
"Denmark is about 80 percent over 12 [years old]. So I think New Zealand has done incredibly well."
While there is still a need to raise the vaccination rates in some areas of the country that are lagging behind, "that is a really important objective but we have to look at the balance of what all the downsides are of severe restrictions and how much of that we are prepared to tolerate".
"The vaccines are performing terrifically well, we're in a different situation with high vaccine coverage and that's great."
He says New Zealand was most vulnerable to the Delta strain because at the time it escaped MIQ into the Auckland community vaccination rates were still low.
If people are vaccinated they will probably be protected against the worst effects of Omicron and for the elderly or the immuno-compromised anti-virals will be available.
"So we're in really really good shape. But the thing that we still have to focus on is the unvaccinated because it doesn't matter what letter of the Greek alphabet we're talking about, they're still in the firing line."
McIntyre says in other parts of the world where vaccination rates have been low, those who receive one dose after being infected have a much greater level of protection against new variants.
Asked if low vaccination rates allow the development of variants, he says their emergence will be driven by "infection pressure".
We are now in the post-vaccine world and need to recognise that this infection will be around forever and we need to be looking at how infections and vaccines interact with each other, he says.
In future there may be a live attenuated version of this virus which vaccinated people can have which will provide a boost without giving people the virus.
These types of vaccines create a nervousness because of fears of whether it has been weakened enough to not pass on the virus, particularly to children.
"There's been interest in it but it's something which is still evolving ..."
The approach of having the vaccine go into the nose or breathing it in through an aerosol is another option for building up immunity.
"A live attenuated vaccine, if we could do it as we have done with flu, it may be something which really helps us as this whole endemic or transition to being an endemic virus evolves."
The goal is to build a broad immune response which would be similar to the immunity built up for measles and other childhood viruses such as chickenpox and polio.
"That's why we have been able to get rid of smallpox because we were actually giving protection against the whole virus, not just a bit of it."
It looks like a mix and match of MRNA vaccines (such as Pfizer) is effective - which is a positive when trying to distribute the supply of vacines worldwide, however, there would not be any advantage to New Zealanders using another vaccine for their booster shot, he says.
While early reports suggest the new variant Omicron may be milder than the likes of Delta, his prediction is that people are still at risk of severe disease if they are unvaccinated.
Speaking about the international vaccine supply in the first half of 2022 he expects it to be solid, and the challenge in terms of global equity will be to deliver vaccines to parts of Asia and Africa that have so far missed out.
"The good news is that the supply is coming right, we've still got a long way to go but we're on the right track."
This report has been edited to reflect New Zealand is among the the most vaccinated countries in the world.
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Posted: at 6:59 pm
9:04pm, 18 December 2021
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Mark Robinson is adamant trans-Tasman club rugby will go ahead in 2022 despite the growing threat of the Omicron virus.
A decision on the future of the competition will be arrived at in the next few days according to Robinson, who spoke to media at Wellington alongside the codes end-of-year board meetings.
We would like to get to a situation where we can replicate as closely as possible the original Pacific format, he said.
Theres a few moving parts to that and a few different contingencies being worked through were down to having to make a call pretty soon.
The scenarios that were talking about the moment all have an element of trans-Tasman (matches).
Last month, Australian and Kiwi rugby chiefs released the Super Rugby Pacific draw including expansion franchises Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika with a kick-off date of February 18.
Jacinda Arderns government then threw a spanner in the works with its border reopening plan, which requires all arrivals to self-isolate for seven days on arrival.
The NZ government has repeatedly declined the idea of exemptions for sport but Robinson is clinging to the prospect, saying there was a huge amount of work going on with the government to get the competition happening.
COVID-19 has already forced many changes to southern hemisphere rugby, including the last two Rugby Championships.
In 2020, the Super Rugby season was suspended before being split into domestic competitions.
In 2021, the South African and Argentinian sides went their own way and domestic competitions concluded with a mini trans-Tasman season.
Given the NZ governments hyper-vigilance in the face of COVID-19 and its fear of the Omicron variant, trans-Tasman sport could be a long way from returning.
COVID-19 has also smashed NZ Rugbys finances, which wore a $NZ34.6 million ($A32.7 million) loss last year.
Robinson pre-empted another loss, saying wed like to think we get pretty close to breakeven.
The former All Black is maintaining a pursuit of private equity investment from US firm Silver Lake, though his efforts have been stymied by the players association.
The selling of a minority stake in the All Blacks is highly contentious among players and fans.
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Posted: at 6:59 pm
Monday, 20 December 2021, 9:17 amPress Release: NZ Merchant Service Guild
The union representing ships masters and officers saysfuture solutions for a resilient supply chain must includeNew Zealand ships crewed by New Zealand seafarers.
TheNew Zealand Merchant Service Guild has welcomed theGovernments recent state of play report on coastalshipping, including its support for maintaining anddeveloping local maritime skills.
Merchant ServiceGuild Vice President, Captain Iain MacLeod, says the ongoingglobal COVID pandemic has put the spotlight on thevulnerability of New Zealands supply chain.
CaptainMacLeod draws on decades of direct experience of theshipping industry, and he was recently a Master on one ofthe international container vessels routinely plying the NewZealand coast.
He says allowing our supply chain to bedominated by international shipping companies paying crewsfrom poor nations rates as low as NZ$1.47 per hour andcharging exorbitant freight prices cannot bejustified.
The Merchant Service Guild has beenactively campaigning for an expansion to local coastalshipping since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.
Ithas recently drafted a Private Members Bill to closeloopholes in the Maritime Transport Act.
Theseloopholes have allowed international shipping companies likeMaersk to progressively undermine New Zealandshipping.
There is gross exploitation ofinternational seafarers who effectively work in New Zealandwaters, staying on board with no shore leave for months andmonths on end, while their employers make record profits,and pay no tax here.
Mr MacLeod says the situationhas now become worse as the largest global shipper Maerskhas put New Zealand on the spot market for freightrates.
He says this will hurt New Zealand industry,and a new supply chain model was urgently required thatrebuilt New Zealand coastal shipping.
Captain MacLeodsays a local seafaring workforce is a crucial factor inbuilding New Zealands COVID resilience.
Therewould be nothing to stop New Zealand crewed coastal vesselsfrom adding international ports to their normal tradingroutes carrying New Zealand imports andexports.
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Why New Zealand businessman Sir Ian Taylor believes politicians are holidaying at the ‘most dangerous time’ of COVID pandemic – Newshub
Posted: at 6:59 pm
Sir Ian told Newstalk ZB the current situation is "one of the most dangerous times of this pandemic".
"The Prime Minister said to everyone, 'Go take your break, you bloody deserve it' and I was staggered by that. Nobody should be talking about a break right now.
"Summer should be where we have the best opportunity to start putting defences in place for the upcoming onslaught which is winter. Winter will bring in the flu, it will bring in COVID.
"We already missed 16 months, where we did nothing, to shore up the defences and the idea that parliamentarians pat themselves on the back saying, 'You've done really well' there is nothing to congratulate themselves about."
Sir Ian called on Ardern "to accept that we aren't here whinging we are here offering help. We just want to sit at a desk with her for an hour and outline the steps we could take to make this the safest country in the world".
"We've actually missed some steps - let's fill those in before this gets out of control," he told Newstalk ZB.
The Government has been contacted for a response to Sir Ian's comments.
It last week celebrated New Zealand hitting 90 percent fully vaccinated. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Kiwis had worked hard a deserved a Christmas break.
"Their commitment means all New Zealanders are safer and more protected, and can get back to doing the things they love, whether it's travelling to catch up with friends and family for Christmas, heading out to restaurants, pubs and cafes, or enjoying the many festivals and outdoor events planned for the summer."
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Posted: at 6:59 pm
Shane Martin - the father of Richmond superstar Dustin - has died in New Zealand, the Tigers have confirmed.
A statement released by Richmond on Saturday morning confirmed the news, with the club asking for respect to be shown to the Martin family.
The cause of death for Shane, who wasin his early 50's,is not yet known.
"The Richmond Football Club can confirm the passing of Shane Martin, the father of player Dustin Martin," a statement from the club read.
"The club extends its heartfelt sympathy to Dustin, his brothers Bronson and Tyson and the entire Martin family.
"We ask the media to respect Dustin and the Martin familys privacy in this extremely difficult time."
According to the Herald Sun, Richmond were told of Shane's death on Friday and have thrown their full support behind the Martin family.
Shanewas deported from Australia in 2016 on grounds of character and wasn't able to return to Australia despite repeated attempts.
Dustinhas spoken regularly about how difficult it has been to live in a different country to his father, with the star midfielder regularly trekking to New Zealand to visit him.
Dustin's last publicised trip to visit his father in New Zealand came in April when the Brownlow Medallist was sidelined from AFL match action with concussion.
It was the first time Dustin had seen Shane in 12 months because of travel restrictions due tothe COVID-19 pandemic.
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The 90% project: New Zealand administers its eight millionth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – New Zealand Herald
Posted: at 6:59 pm
Vaccinations at Manurewa Marae. Photo / NZME
Not the kind of people to rest on their laurels, New Zealand continues to reach milestones in its vaccination rollout, after smashing its Christmas target of vaccinating 90 per cent of the eligible population.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) today announced that the eight millionth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered in the country.
The number includes first doses, second doses, boosters and third doses intended for those who are immuno-compromised.
The total number includes doses of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
New Zealand began the vaccine rollout in February this year, with border and MIQ workers first on the list. The Delta outbreak in August led to an acceleration of the vaccination rollout and the country reached its 90 per cent target earlier this week.
To date, 94 per cent of the eligible population has received the first dose of the vaccine.
READ MORE: Vaccine Tracker: How many Kiwis have been vaccinated?
MedSafe has approved the Pfizer vaccine for the 5-11 age group in New Zealand, with the rollout expected to start by the end of next month.
Meanwhile, MOH also announced today that MidCentral and Hutt Valley have now reached 90 per cent first doses for Mori, becoming the fourth and fifth DHB areas to achieve this milestone.
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Posted: at 6:59 pm
Between the theatre, arts and live music scenes, alongside the lingering political presence and catastrophic winds, our capital is a city like no other. But where Wellington truly shines is its hospitality scene.
Its something that foodies travel the country for; a weekend in Wellington just to eat around the city and suburbs. Restaurants in the city come and go. What was there one week may have disappeared the next, but there are a few that have seemingly been standing since the beginning of time. And one of those is Fidels.
Fidel's has been a Cuba Street favourite since 1996.
Born in 1996, Fidels politically curious name pays homage to the history of Wellington and the iconic Cuba Street. Since then, the caf has inspired much of the food scene surrounding it.
Owners Roger Young and Potti Wagstaff banded together to open up nearby Havana Bar, a backstreet haunt with some of the best tapas and wines in town, and the coffee served at the caf comes fresh from the Havana Coffee Works, just a few blocks away.
READ MORE:* Travel bites: The odd bod Marlborough winery producing the region's most distinctive wines* Travel bites: The tiny town that rivals Bluff as NZ's seafood capital* Travel bites: Where to find New Zealand's best plate of chips* Travel bites: Hastings Distillers, top shelf gin that tastes like the forest floor
Any Wellingtonian knows that Fidel's is the place to be for a coffee and scone on the go, or Sunday brunch. But the best thing about Fidels is it doesnt discriminate; youll find uni students wedged between politicians and touring musicians and thats part of what makes the space so endearing.
The real secret thats hidden at Fidels isnt the company, and its not the famous Snickers thick shakes either (which have been around since before freak shakes were even a thing). Youll find it by the slice in the cabinet, and youll want to grab more than just one.
The Tim Tam cake is their ode to a treat youll only find in this corner of the world: the much-loved chocolate biccie of the same name, comprising two malt biscuits and cream filling.
Fidel's Tim Tam cake is an oversized version of the popular biscuit.
Here, two wedges of gooey chocolate cake are separated by a layer of house-made dulce de leche, and topped with rich chocolate ganache. It doesnt get much better than this. The cake is gluten-free, but unlike other friands or lemon and poppy seed slices around the city, it doesnt taste like it.
The cake recipe even featured in Cuba Street: A Cookbook, a collaborative effort by restaurants in the centre of the city to share some of Wellingtons most famous dishes. So, you can try to make it yourself, but nothing tastes as good as a slice from the source itself.
The ultimate way to enjoy the treat is to ask for your slice to be warmed up for about 20 seconds, with a dollop of cream or yoghurt on the side. Its the citys secret indulgence, and youd be mad not to try it the next time youre in town.
The spot for coffee and cake or a full sit-down breakfast.
Where to eat: Fidel's Tim Tam cake is $7 per slice. Find the caf at 234 Cuba Street, Te Aro, Wellington. See: fidelscafe.com.
Staying safe: New Zealand is currently under Covid-19 restrictions. Face coverings are mandatory on all flights and public transport. Proof of vaccination and vaccine exemption may be required in some venues under the traffic light system. Follow the instructions at covid19.govt.nz.
Do you have a favourite snack worth travelling for? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know in the comments.
Posted: at 6:59 pm
Dr Apo Aporosa says the Australian regulators are taking a narrow view of kava use. Photo / Todd Henry
Moves across the ditch to tighten rules around kava could extend to Aotearoa, leaving a bitter taste for kava advocates here who have accused the Australian authorities of taking a paternalistic, narrow view of the popular drink.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is seeking submissions on proposed changes to the food standard regulating kava use across both New Zealand and Australia.
The proposal went online earlier month and submissions are open until Thursday.
The stated aim is: "To support a Federal Government pilot program which will allow commercial importation of kava into Australia to build stronger cultural and economic ties with Pacific Island nations".
Australia has historically had stronger controls on the Pacific drink than New Zealand, but relaxed rules around importation in 2019 to allow for individuals to bring up to 4kg in their luggage when entering the country.
This year the country moved to allow commercial importation and is now proposing changes that would more tightly control its sale.
The two main changes would effectively ban takeaway kava and tighten existing regulations on how it is prepared.
FSANZ further states that the proposed changes are designed to keep kava firmly for use in traditional ceremonies, a bone of contention for those who say that authorities are not taking into consideration the diversity of kava culture in the Pacific.
"We need to remember that not all Pacific people are the same," Dr Apo Aporosa from the University of Waikato told the Herald.
"For instance, niVanuatu have different cultural practices to Fijians, and Fijians different practices to Samoans. This equally applies to the kava culture. So what is traditional in one place may not be reflected the same in another."
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The proposed ban on takeaway kava has the potential to affect the small number of outlets that offer it in New Zealand.
'Anau and Todd Henry of Four Shells Kava in Auckland point out that kava culture differs across the Pacific and has changed over time.
"3000 years ago in northern Vanuatu, the original form of kava preparation was done by adding water to chewed kava pulp," the couple said in a statement.
"However, if you got to Port Vila today you will see that the most common way for people to have kava is in takeaway plastic bottles from the many kava bars located around the city.
"There are numerous ways that kava is consumed across the Pacific, but to us the essence of the kava tradition is about mutual respect, inclusivity, and civility, not necessarily the vessels in which the kava is consumed from.
"If kava was required to only be consumed in its 'traditional' form, how far back should it go? And who gets to dictate which kava tradition is observed?"
Aporosa said that he travelled to Australia in June and presented latest research on the health effects of kava to a group that included senior health officials.
He said he did so to counteract "a number of misunderstandings and misinformation" being relied on by Australian authorities, but those same authorities appear to have fallen back on that old material in presenting the submission that underpins these new proposals.
He also questioned why the process was not being run by members of the Pacific community.
"It feels like we are being treated like ignorant natives, incapable of speaking for ourselves and our cultural substance and practice," Aporosa told the Herald.
He said that some in the Australian government appear to hold "imperialistic ideas" about kava.
Aporosa said he completely refuted the inference in the supporting document to the proposal that kava was addictive and had adverse effects on liver function, citing his own his research.
He questioned the role of the "aesthetics of modernity" and said it contributes to negative attitudes towards kava.
Aporosa said the mixing by hand and communal nature of the kava experience is often seen by non-Pacific people as primitive and undeveloped, whereas slickly packaged alcohol tends to be viewed as acceptable, despite the huge socio-cultural impacts of alcohol on all parts of society.
He pointed to the increasing use of kava by Mori in New Zealand as an alternative to alcohol, with kava facilitating quality korero - often with other ethnicities in inclusive spaces - and questioned whether this had been taken into account by health bosses across the ditch.
He said there is no reason why non-Pacific people should not be using kava, which he says can "provide relational spaces that promotes positive mental health", as long people respect kava, its use, and those they are consuming kava with.
A 2019 study from Australia ranked the harm caused by 22 commonly-used substances, both legal and illicit. That study awarded kava three "harm points".
That same study awarded alcohol 77 points - the highest of any substance.
Referring to the ban on sending kava to friends and family in Australia, Aporosa said: "I can post a box of 12 40oz bottles of Jack Daniels - enough to kill - into Australia from NZ, but cannot send 100 grams of safe kava."
"The entire situation is ludicrous, beyond ridiculous, health bureaucracy gone mad."
Aporosa said he was not "overly concerned" that NZ would implement those changes if the FSANZ proposal was carried, that decision makers in NZ are "vastly more informed and reasoned about kava".
Asked why the changes were needed in New Zealand, an Australian spokesperson for FSANZ said: "The Code requirements for kava are identical for Australia and New Zealand. Enforcement of the Code is the responsibility of food enforcement agencies in Australia, and the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand.
"The proposal has been prepared to ensure it continues to meet its intent to support traditional use, and protect public health and safety."
But Vince Arbuckle, deputy director-general of New Zealand Food Safety, told the Herald that he was unable to confirm whether or not the changes will be implemented in New Zealand and encouraged any interested parties to make a submission to FSANZ.
'Anau and Todd Henry at Four Shells said that they don't expect that the general public will be troubled by any potential change, but said it could have "long-term negative effects" on kava drinkers.
"What everyone should worry about is that Australia can influence laws in New Zealand that relate to established cultural practices like kava drinking," they added.
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Posted: at 6:59 pm
Monday, 20 December 2021, 10:29 amPress Release: New Zealand Infrastructure Commission
New Te Waihanga research shows New Zealand gets lessvalue from its infrastructure spending than most otherhigh-income countries.
"We spend about the same amountas other wealthy countries, but weve found we could getmore value from what we spend," says New ZealandInfrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga Director of EconomicsPeter Nunns.
"To solve our infrastructure challenges,well need to build more efficiently as well as buildingmore."
The new research has found that in recentdecades our network infrastructure spending has been aboutaverage for a high-income country, and that what we spend iton is similar as well. However, the value that we get forwhat we spend is not so good - our efficiency ratingof building infrastructure lies in the bottom 10% ofhigh-income countries.
The research builds on the draftNew Zealand Infrastructure Strategy developed by TeWaihanga, which highlights key factors that underpin qualityinfrastructure investment: good decision-making, an enablingplanning system, and the raw materials and workforce neededto build the infrastructure. Te Waihanga are already awareof problems in our infrastructure consenting system and theavailability of raw materials.
"The costs to consentand build infrastructure are rising. Weve recentlypublished other research showing that consenting costs forinfrastructure projects are increasing, and availability ofkey materials like aggregates is increasingly constrained,"Nunns says. "This makes it difficult to deliverinfrastructure efficiently. We need to address these typesof systemic issues to get good value from infrastructureinvestment."
"Successive Governments have invested ininfrastructure, but they could have got more from what theyspent. To do better, we need to better understand costperformance and look for areas we can improve."
Readthe new infrastructure efficiency research: ResearchInsights December2021.
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