The importance of infrastructure
Here in New Zealand, we grow some of the highest-quality produce in the world. But, if you can’t get it to the consumer, what’s the point in growing it?
Vegetable growing operations in years past were located close to towns and cities, so the people living there could have easy access to fresh vegetables. The expansion of our urban centres has seen these operations being taken over by houses and moved further away from consumers. Also, as much of our produce is exported around the world, we need to have good transport links to the cities and ports, both for those exports and for domestic supply.
Gisborne, for example, is a highly productive growing area for all sorts of produce. But there is, essentially, just one road out to the Bay of Plenty, and another down to the Hawkes Bay; if either (or both) of those roads close, Gisborne is isolated, and its produce cannot get out by road. The closing of the Kaikoura road, due to last November’s earthquake, caused major logistic problems in moving produce up and down the country. And then we have Auckland, where congestion makes it difficult for anyone to get anywhere, never mind get produce to market.
This spring, Southland hasn’t suffered the wet weather inflicted on the rest of the country, and its produce - potatoes, carrots, and parsnips - was sold all around the country and beyond; New Zealand’s roads were what allowed that to happen, and ensured the rest of the country could still get their veges.
The growth of the primary sector, particularly in logging and horticulture, is putting stress on the road and rail networks just to keep the existing ones operational. Then, on top of that, there is the urgent needs to expand these networks to link provincial communities, and ease urban congestion.
Both the old and new Government had and have plans to address the critical need for efficient infrastructure. The Government’s billion dollars for regional development is an excellent commitment to infrastructure, and their other plans will alleviate some of the existing congestion. This is urgently needed; the lack of effective infrastructure in New Zealand will be one of the major impediments to our economy’s continued growth.
- Mike Chapman, CEO