What's fair? Providing and paying for infrastructure

Our infrastructure networks are vital to our quality of life. Access to safe transportation, reliable electricity, mobile and internet services, and clean water is part of what makes New Zealand a great place to live, work and play. 
But not everyone has the same access to our infrastructure. This could be because of where you live, who you are, or what you can afford. Access to quality infrastructure can help reduce the impacts of disadvantage. Fast, affordable transport can mean access to more jobs, fast internet means accessible education and health services and clean water means healthier whānau. 
How we plan, provide, pay and use infrastructure matters for how fairly and easily different people can get access to it. Ensuring that we all get the greatest value from our infrastructure investments – now and in the future. 
So, should those who benefit most from infrastructure pay more? Should people who live in rural areas get the same access and quality of infrastructure as those in cities? Should the decisions we make today take into account the needs of future generations? What’s fair?

Every aspect of infrastructure has an impact on fairness, from project selection through to design and planning, to how infrastructure is funded and financed, through to the price paid by consumers and the quality of the services they receive.

Te Waihanga is undertaking research into how infrastructure is funded and priced, as well as its implications for equity and the quality of infrastructure provision. Because infrastructure exists for generations, part of the discussion will also need to include intergenerational equity – how financing decisions can be made today that fairly share costs over generations. The findings from this work will help inform the next New Zealand Infrastructure Strategy and underpin the Commission’s advice to local and central government and other infrastructure decision-makers.

Infrastructure impacts people in different ways

We're all different. We live in different places, have different needs, but should we all have the same access to infrastructure?

Water charging in Kāpiti

Charging people for how much they use an infrastructure service doesn’t mean higher costs. When the Kāpiti District Council introduced volumetric charging for water, 75% of residents ended up paying less for water than they did before. Instead of everyone paying for the cost of filling private swimming pools or watering large gardens, people only paid for what they used.

Connecting the Chatham Islands

Access to internet and mobile coverage is something many of us take for granted, but not everywhere in New Zealand is connected. The Chatham Islands were connected for the first time in December 2021 and for the 663 residents it means a lot. Residents now have peace of mind in an emergency, are able to connect with people on the mainland or overseas and have access to unlimited knowledge to research school projects.

Public transport for all?

1 in 4 New Zealanders have a disability and being able to hop on a bus or train isn’t as easy as it should be for them. Services may be hard to get to or even hard to find for people with low vision. In some cases it may be physically impossible or dangerous to get on board, especially where buses or trains don’t have ramps, level access or secure areas for people in wheelchairs.

About this research

This research will be conducted through a range of research methods. Including, a literature review, interviews, workshops and surveys.

Have your say

Want to have your say on this work? Contact us at whatisfair@tewaihanga.govt.nz


Latest on this work

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Watch: Webinar - What's fair?

On 1 May 2023, Te Waihanga hosted a webinar to support the launch of its deep-dive research project into infrastructure and fairness.

Click to go to the Watch: Webinar - What's fair? page
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Podcast: Accessible public transport for all - more than a labour of love

We need our cities to be attractive and inclusive places to live.

Click to go to the Podcast: Accessible public transport for all - more than a labour of love page

News: Te Waihanga begins research into fairness and infrastructure

Te Waihanga is undertaking a long-term research project that will explore fairness and how we provide and pay for infrastructure.

Click to go to the News: Te Waihanga begins research into fairness and infrastructure page