At the IPWEA NZ Conference this year, we were fortunate to hear from big-picture thinkers and Industry change-makers as keynotes, all making waves to achieve sustainability in all that we do, culturally, environmentally, socially and economically.

On day one, Professor Susan Krumdieck encouraged us to choose the future we need, starting our presentations with an eye-opening look into transition engineering and the duty of care that we have for our world and communities to change successful systems when necessary.

The Honorable Nanaia Mahuta talked to attendees about the government’s aspirational aims for local government and the meaningful change which will be brought about by the Three Waters Reform Programme (NZ). With 9,000 new jobs predicted in the industry, she highlighted that the current workforce will be the foundation of our future.

Day 2 of the IPWEA New Zealand conference, Sustainability through Reform – taking Aotearoa to 2050, started with a stark reminder from Bernard Hickey, leading journalist and political commentator, that across the world, we are living dangerously. Bernard examined how rapid technology adoption and change has influenced our societies and systems, with the weaponisation of social media changing politics forever. In order to achieve our cultural, economic and infrastructure aspirations, we need to reshape our political landscape.

Susan Freeman-Greene, CE at Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) started with a timely reminder that we need to encourage higher voting in local government elections. She took a dive into the concept of citizenship, commenting that being a citizen is not a status but a verb. For positive change in our democracy, we need to believe that others around us inherently want to help too, and through this transformation we can attain the future we want.

On our final day, Blake Lepper, GM of Infrastructure Delivery, at New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga kicked off proceedings with a look into Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa. He encouraged infrastructure professionals to consider how we can extend the lives of our infrastructure, particularly as materials become rarer and, therefore, more expensive. Blake called for genuine and enduring partnerships to be formed to bring diversity to decision making and to start removing biases from this process.

Our closing keynote speaker for this year’s conference was the very inspirational, Sir Ian Taylor. Kō ngā tahu ā ō tapuwai inanahi, hei tauira mō āpōpō – the footsteps we lay down in our past create the paving stones where we stand today – The past guides us into the future.

He encouraged us to look to Papatūānuku and understand the connections between people, plants and animals as we consider the future of Aotearoa. He shared innovative and creative projects taking place in New Zealand providing solutions to many problems we’re facing.