We had 46 people attend this branch event which was hosted by New Plymouth District Council on Friday 21st February. Although the Americana festival was also in town, we got to meet, share project updates and lessons learnt, and discuss the challenges and opportunities we face together.

We had four technical presentations by three local councils as well as an ongoing discussion about the challenges facing our industry. The day ended with Raj the branch chair unpacking the challenges and opportunities we face.

Thanks to IDS who provided the morning tea, and coffee to keep us going all day, and our generous host, New Plymouth District Council.

The New Plymouth District Council Mayor, Neil Holdom opened the event with some great insight into the council, its issues, and his pet project around sharing consistent data with all local councils. Neil sees the importance of maintenance as with just .5% improvement in funding now can be billions saved later. Roading is our number on issue where we are sweating the asset with bigger and heavier trucks but minimal increase in funding to keep up with the damage they cause. The Tax payers union is really good at crunching the numbers and sharing the data.

Neil’s pet project is data. The aim is one spreadsheet for all councils with 80% of what we do. He would like all councils onboard with this by June. One challenge is where this would be housed, Stat’s NZ would be the obvious place, but it seems to currently be heading DIA’s direction.

Neil is also an advocate for councils being more efficient with their data systems. Why have 78 different systems to do the same thing?

  View Mayor Neil Holdom’s Slides here

The second presentation was by New Plymouth District Council and Beca. Te Pae o te Rangi is a significant project being co-designed with hapū to connect local communities. After a false start in 2015 when a design was sent out for approval and was rejected, it was back to the drawing board with a totally different approach and a fresh start– co-design.

The council partnered with local hapū and has $18M funding from Waka Kotahi to deliver the project. There are nine land-owners, 250 attendees at various consultation events, and one of the local hapū have gifted the name for the programme.

It has been critical to focus on the value the project will deliver rather than the cost of delivering it.

Elected members were brought onboard the programme from the beginning, by having two councillors on the board as well as Mana Whenua. Building relationships has been critical to the project, and will last beyond this project.

Te Pae o te Rangi – Coastal pathway extension (npdc.govt.nz)

Stratford District Council presented their security upgrade project which was driven by a big red flag on their risk register – a lightly fenced water treatment pond near a community pathway. An attendee shared the fact that he had found someone windsurfing on a water treatment pond in Huntly, and had to explain to the French tourist why he shouldn’t be windsurfing there!

The change in risk was due to a fatality at a similar treatment pond, so the risk became urgent. Councillors were taken to the site to show them the current state.

The council worked closely with the contractor and put in place a 400m pilot fence as a test. In that short stretch issues with the gap beneath the fence/gates were identified and this informed the rest of the construction.

Transparency was key to getting the project delivered within budget and on time.

  View the Security Enhancement Project Stratford slides here

After a networking lunch and a growing number of post-its on the board in relation to our industry question, the presentations kicked off again with New Plymouth District Council’s water meter programme.

This programme is 2.5years in delivery so far, will all meters likely to be installed by 2025. They ran a pilot with 200 properties to start with and this was a hugely valuable exercise. Much like the pilot with the Stratford security upgrade, it highlighted the issues which could then be addressed. The NPDC owned the procurement process and kept the project inhouse as much as possible to reduce costs, such as buying the meters and boxes direct from the wholesaler, and to keep the communications as direct and immediate as possible. They have a tight process with the contractors and use an app to manage the project with live updates. This allows anyone involved to see which properties have a meter, have or need a box replaced or moved. This results in immediate and accurate responses to customers which saves time for everyone involved. As this project effects everyone in New Plymouth, there is plenty of feedback.

View the Water Meter Project slides here

Although volumetric billing is not in place, the data received so far has resulted in leaks being identified and repaired (mostly on the customer side), which accounted for 20% of the volume used. This stat looks to be the average for water leakage. This project has already markedly improved the water consumption before even getting to the next phase where mock bills will be sent out.

IDS’s Jodie O’Doherty presented their offering and advice for those in the industry: we are stronger together so look after yourselves and connect with others.


The last project of the day was the Nukumaru Station Road, a new construction project by the South Taranaki District Council. The road spans two council boundaries, so this was a challenge with different rules for each side of the road!

It was a shovel ready project and they had a memorandum of understanding with local Iwi to construct. The road is expected to be completed by April 2024.

The catalyst for the new road was the old bridge which was built in 1989 being damaged in a flood when a hectare of land was washed away – so a temporary fix has been in place for 9 years. The new road is away from the flood plain and river to avoid these risks and be more resilient.

The challenges they faced included the geography: Sand to construct a road on, two rare wildlife species, KiwiRail level crossing expectations, Archaeological sites, and an organic farm bordering the project. All of these challenges have been overcome, but its impressive to hear how they worked through each of them.

During the day we workshopped the challenges and opportunities in infrastructure asset management through discussion and a post-it wall. Below is a summary of that discussion.

Challenges facing infrastructure asset management

  1. Funding: Navigating market volatility and uncertainties while still delivering high/consistent returns for the client/customer. Affordability in the long run with costs increasing on all fronts e.g. safety costs such as traffic management
  2. Political cycles causing flip flop on decisions and funding. Creates huge challenges at the coal face.
  3. Skill shortages – less people to do the work, particularly in the regions such as West Coast councils where they need projects of scale to attract the talent and then to pay a premium to pull people in. There is also a huge variance in the level of training of staff.
  4. Getting good data

Opportunities facing infrastructure asset management

  1. Celebrate asset management and highlight it as a career path (Āpōpō Awards and scholarships close on 11 March)
  2. Share services/information: (Data sharing suggested by Neil Holdem New Plymouth Mayor) utilise others experiences and collaborate. Why not use regional asset management plans? Do all councils need their own data platforms?
  3. Persuade politicians of the value of thinking beyond election cycles. Engage with them and paint the full story.
  4. Create a vision based on the four wellbeing’s as the lifestyle capital measure or planetary boundaries  – not everything is about the money. Dunedin is a good example of this and measuring against donut economics
  5. We should all be working in at least a 30 year planning time frame as this changes the focus
  6. Have accurate numbers e.g. effective maintenance which will cost XYZ, or wait until it breaks which costs WXYZ.
  7. Tell the hard truth supported by good data and emphasise the consequences. Decisions makers then need to take ownership of the decisions knowing well the consequence and impact on the wellbeing of our community.

Thanks to all those who attended and contributed to this discussion. It will be continued at future branch events, so please join us to get involved!