Infrastructure plays a critical part in our everyday lives and improving our infrastructure is seen as a way of improving our economy and our standard of living. The group pushing for more and better infrastructure more than any other is the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development (NZCID). Their description of themselves below  makes them sound like they are some sort group of experts, diligently working in the best interests of New Zealand.

NZCID is an authority at the forefront of infrastructure development issues. The Council promotes best practice in national infrastructure development through research, advocacy and public and private sector collaboration. NZCID members come from diverse sectors across New Zealand, equity owners, service providers, public sector agencies, and major infrastructure users.

Together we share a clear purpose; world class infrastructure for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

But there is a major problem, while their name and description sounds really good, they are really nothing more than a glorified lobby group whose only purpose is to get as much stuff built as possible. Take a look at their objectives. I have highlighted some of the key parts related to this.

The Council’s objectives are to:

(a) identify and prioritise specific infrastructure needs;

(b) facilitate and encourage the provision of world class infrastructure, by both public and private sectors, in an economically, socially and environmentally responsible manner;

(c) influence central, regional and local government decision making on the provision of infrastructure;

(d) identify the impediments to infrastructure provision, and provide solutions;

(e) assist in creating an environment where:

(i) it is accepted by all governments and the community that New Zealand must have world class infrastructure if it is to achieve its economic and social potential;

(ii) the consequences of failing to provide world class infrastructure are understood;

(iii) the respective roles of both public and private sectors in the provision of infrastructure are accepted;

(f) become the leading non government point of reference on issues relating to infrastructure provision;

(g) provide a voice, for the Council’s membership, in addressing infrastructure needs for New Zealand; and

(h) do all such lawful things as are incidental to or ancillary to the attainment of the vision and the objectives of the Council.

All of the lobbying is really on behalf of their members of which there are currently 82. Unsurprisingly almost all are companies that benefit directly from investment in infrastructure being construction, consultancy, finance, legal or material supply companies. But perhaps the odd ones are the organisations highlighted in yellow being some of the wider Auckland Council family. At up to $9,000 per membership it means that ratepayers are directly (or indirectly through less dividend in the case of PoA) paying about $45,000 per year just so they can to be lobbied to spend more money on stuff. By comparison, notice the lack of government agencies on the list, especially the NZTA.

NZCID

So what lobbying have the NZCID been doing in Auckland? Well they were perhaps of the strongest proponent of the wish-list that the council pushed as part of the Auckland Plan, one that happens to have up to a $15 billion shortfall in agreed funding and which most projects haven’t been assessed and are unlikely to be needed if the funding proposals go ahead.

But while they are busy supporting building lots of stuff, they are also pushing behind the scenes to make that what is built more expensive. For the CRL they want to change the route that would make it longer, more costly and less effective.

Problem with Alternate Route 2

One of the documents from my recent OIA request to the Ministry of Transport shows that this approach isn’t only being used on the CRL but also on a future harbour crossing too. Again this is despite numerous studies by the NZTA and probably some of the NZCID member organisations on what route is best.

NZCID AWHC

As mentioned earlier, this group only really care about building as much stuff as possible to benefit it’s members. It’s seriously about time that the Auckland Council and its subsidiaries followed the lead of government agencies in not financially supporting this kind of approach. Paying money to help be lobbied to spend more is not a good use of ratepayer funds.

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40 comments

  1. Both Kiwi Rail and NZTE are government entities. The participation of the latter is debatable. The participation of the former is highly questionable.

  2. That list of members is interesting. Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC, but not Deloitte or any of the second tier (that I noticed); a smattering of the big law firms but not Simpson Grierson or DLA Philips Fox; 2degrees and Chorus but not Telstravodahug or any of the retail ISPs (even ones who have infrastructure); ANZ, BNZ and Westpac, but not ASB or Kiwibank…

    Some really intriguing absences from the list of non-infrastructure corporate members.

    1. “a smattering of the big law firms” – well basically all of them except Simpson Grierson. DLA Philips Fox is hardly a big law firm. Bell Gully, Russell MacVeagh and Chapman Tripp are there as well as Buddle Findlay and Minter Ellison. Surprised Simpson Grierson is not as they have a large and good construction practise and also have a good Local Government/RMA practice. I am sure the law firms keep a close eye on the infrastructure developments but of course no where near as much slush money around for a PT project whereas a roading project is a direct transfre of public money into private pockets.

      1. DLA Philips Fox is a multi-national law firm. Their presence in NZ is low-profile, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re small potatoes. Also missing is Meredith Connell.

  3. There are alot of interesting names on there, notably Aussie and UK trade bodies.
    These hint to the real purpose of the NZCID. Was set up to push Public Private Partnerships. Orignal head wsa JimMcLay, head of Macquaire Bank in NZ. Well know for involvemnt in Australia’s numerous PPP debacles. NZCID’s lobbying has certainly paid off with T Gully set to be a PPP, as well as Wiri Prison and Hobsonville School. A few of these companies will be able to collect 10s of millions a year, where they previosuly missed out on clipping the ticket.
    No problem with Public Private Partnerships for things such as Skypath (where govt stroppy), but for large infrastructure and considering the low govt cost of borrowing, really hard to find a complelling reason.

  4. Absolutely agree with Matt and Julie Anne’s comment and I find Sellwood’s periodic articles in the Herald lack any really significant substance..

    1. Warren, the frequency and content of the articles is probably as much a comment on the Herald as it is the NZCID.

      The Herald seems to lack the ability and/or desire to employ people to think and write decent copy for themselves, so they outsource it to the likes of the NZCID. Sad really.

      1. I think it could be largely editor driven. I know of at least one reporter who has been quite keen to write some pro PT articles but has been prevented from doing so by his superiors. We have also had op-eds turned down saying it wasn’t relevant right after the NZCID or similar wrote something on the topic. In one case we had an op-ed stolen.

  5. In many ways I see transportblog as a corrective to the self-interested urgings of NZCID. We are at least in the best possible sense, disinterested; whatever may be thought of our contributions to infrastructure debates we cannot be accused of venality.

    It is very frustrating to see public money going to fund this very far from selfless lobby group.

  6. Given that the ATB would seem to be AT’s most effective means of communication, because they don’t seem to be able to do it competently themselves. And given that ATB has come up with a transport programme that is more intelligent, cheaper and far more effective than that proposed by AT, surely Drs Levy and Warburton, Messrs Brown and McKay, etc, could see fit to provide ATB with levels of funding equal to that they provide to NZCID, even if the latter does nothing but ensure that its ‘constructive’ members are comfortably feathered. There’s a little piwakawaka logo up on the left; all they have to do is it the ‘donate now’ button. And there I was (sort of) believing the spin that New Zealand barely registered in the world league tables for corruption; turns out our local body and its corporate offspring are well tucked up in the bed of the corporate predators.

    1. Well we would certainly welcome some funding but it would be slightly hypocritical if we took it from the council. Interestingly when looking at the list of members I saw the name Committee for Auckland. Wondering what that was I went looking and found this http://www.committeeforauckland.co.nz/. They are another similar organisation and also charge large sums of money to be a member. Once again AC and many of its orgs are members (not AT though) so even more money going to these sorts of schemes.

      1. They could start with a few fact checkers. From the home page:

        “When Auckland achieves, the entire country reaps the benefits. Auckland produces some 20% of New Zealand’s GDP and is home to 30% of the nation”

        Try 35% and 34% there abouts.

  7. This reminds me of a mini-furore in the 90s (IIRC) when Ash was lobbying the government for tighter regulations on smoking while being funded by the Ministry of Health (IIRC), and a politician (I can’t remember who) realised that there was something very wrong with an organisation being paid by a government agency to lobby it.

    Point: whatever the merits of the issue at hand, government funding needs to be kept separate from lobbying, as it is the thin end of a corrupt wedge. The same needs to apply to local government.

    1. Ditto with ALAC, which (among other things) exists to lobby the government for more anti-alcohol laws. Just to rub it in, it’s funded from a levy from every drink you buy.

      1. I don’t see a problem with ALAC getting funding through alcohol sales, given that its opposition are funded very well from the same source. Without ALAC, there would be no serious counterweight to the alcohol industry.

        Infrastructure, though, should be well and truly an arms-length relationship. If these government organisations (probably excluding KR, given that it’s meant to be an income-generating operation and runs as a corporation (nominally) at arms-length from its minister) were given “observer” status or similar, so they could watch proceedings but not have a voice, that would be one thing. But being paid-up members is quite something else.

        1. But what’s the difference in NZ between the car dependent culture and the alcohol dependent culture? Both are reinforced by cultural factors (especially in the Anglophone world) and need education and price controls to be managed at an acceptable level. Both contribute to a lot of deaths and serious injuries and seem to encourage the consumer to violence (street/domestic violence – road rage).

          Though an even better analogy is fast food and auto dependency. Both are contributing to obesity and need changes in lifestyle and a more old fashioned approach to life (home cooked healthy meals – active modes and PT) to address the problems. Also like fast food, the approach is not “never eat McDonalds” or “never drive your car” but more that doing either all the time is not leading to a healthy, happy society

  8. NCID sound rather like the ATB.

    Gotta watch groups like this, they think they’re always right and everyone else has got it wrong.

    1. Why would anyone not think that they were right, and everyone who disagreed with them wrong? If you don’t think you are right, you change your mind.

      1. Exactly, of course we think we are right; why on earth would you write an opinion you believe to be wrong [unless of course you were to gain in some other way]? The question is whether the evidence supports our various opinions. This is why we go to such lengths to support our views with data and reasoning and ask that commenters make a similar effort, especially if they disagree.

        I should add that the process of building a case has frequently nuanced my position so is therefore worthwhile in itself. Writing a post is an act of enquiry.

    2. As Patrick points out, the difference is we don’t benefit financially if our opinions are acted upon. If the NZCID are successful their members are the ones who will do the work and benefit.

  9. Why do we need to pay 5 times? If for some reason it was deemed important to belong to this group couldn’t just the council join and share the login to their website or whatever other benefit (invite to their annual ball?) you get from joining with the other council owned organisations.

    1. Better question, why shouldn’t they be a member? Membership means they can provide a voice for the disadvantaged. ACM is an advocacy organisation, not just a soup kitchen and shelter.

  10. Also interesting that no other councils have joined the NZCID. You might’ve thought some councils with lower growth projections than Auckland would be keen to get some of the funding lovin’ too.

  11. This public body funding is a hangover from the days when the NZCID received $$ from most of the local councils (not that it was OK then, either). Note also publicly-owned entities Transdev, Transfield and Kiwirail. But look closely at the other members. These are not just firms who stand to make a lot of money out of building roads and tunnels, but investment and banking firms. It’s not just a matter of building more and more expensive stuff, it’s about using this expensive stuff to leverage cash flow from the public to the private sector, especially investors and fund managers. So we, the people of Auckland, are not only in line to get a bunch of projects of dubious social and economic value, but chances are we will get to pay to use them through various debt-funding mechanisms such as PPPs. It’s the 21st century tollbooth economy, and another reason we need the congestion-free network.

      1. Funny- I wish somebody would. In fact I think the NZCID model is just what we should be doing. As far as I’m concerned this post is straight out envy!

        I could certainly could do with some return on the hours and effort I put in and if that’s the case Matt certainly could too.

        But seriously dennis the answer is you do, or at least those of you who last year turned up to our film night, and this year who donated to the Give A Little campaigns. That’s it. Those small sums pay for the web hosting, the rest is all pro bono by the contributors.

        No ads, No secret funders.

        [So far]

        1. I am impressed with both the quality and quantity of contributions submitted by you and Matt even if I disagree with a large number of them.I do not think NZCID or any lobby group should be funded by the ratepayer.

        2. Thanks Dennis. We don’t ask that you agree with everything and are happy to debate the points providing it is done so on an evidence basis.

        1. We do support and agree with CBT but receive no money from them nor any other group. The day we switch to having corporate sponsors we’ll tell you about it. Anyway, as a member of the CBT committee I know exactly how much money CBT has: Bugger all.

          You will note that the CFN campaign material has three logos on the bottom: ATB, CBT, and Generation Zero. Yup we’re all in it together. Paddling the waka in the same direction; hardly a secret conspiracy.

      2. Lance the CBT provide no funding, their role is primarily to handle the funding we do receive. M R Cagney provide no direct funding other than contributing like many others when we have had fundraising events.

        Also note: CBT have no say over the editorial content of this site.

      3. You could say this blog is crowdfunded as per the recent Givealittle fundraiser – and most importantly, unlike my tax/ratepayer money that has gone to the NZCID without my express concent, my own money, and how much of it, went to this blog voluntarily.

        Can you point to an advocacy or lobby group that receives no funding whatsoever, either from members, interested parties or anywhere else? Lance, what do you consider acceptable sources of funding for a blog like this one?

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