Every Easter my mother sends us woolly socks for the South Island winter. In the past we have used them once or twice and then they somehow disappeared into the ecosystem of our house. I knew we had a lot of socks somewhere, but could never find any (especially pairs). So I would just keep buying more, and they would mysteriously go missing too.
Finally I bought a hamper just for socks, with a strict rule that only pairs can go in there. One week into the new regime it’s still full of paired socks that are easy to find. Long may this last!
Infrastructure strategies also need a good internal structure which clearly identifies the most important challenges facing a region over the next 30 years, paired with the proposed solutions (or options) for responding to them.
These strategies need to be easy to find by all council departments, as well as everyone else who has a role in commenting on, aligning with or implementing the proposed approaches. Otherwise there is a risk that a council’s infrastructure strategy will founder like an odd sock at the back of some dusty cupboard, only to be rediscovered every three years when a review is required.
From my personal experience of working on a couple of infrastructure strategies, I know that a huge amount of work goes into creating a coherent, forward thinking, strategy. It seems a real shame to waste that investment in long term thinking by forgetting about it in between reviews.
The Office of the Auditor-General said: “We continue to support the requirement for infrastructure strategies. As a means to focus on the areas where local authorities spend the most, we see infrastructure strategies as an integral part of LTPs. Strong infrastructure strategies give a credible and believable long term view of the issues and opportunities the local authority faces.”
Both the Office of the Auditor-General and the Society of Local Government Managers (SOLGM) place a lot of emphasis on telling a story within the strategy.
“An infrastructure strategy (and financial strategy) are more than collections of information. It is the overall synthesis of the information into an overall story that provides the value for the reader.”
As a writer who helps councils to share their information, I wholeheartedly agree with this approach. But for all the people who are expressing their best ideas on how to tackle challenges such as increasing flood risk, ageing populations and networks, affordability, earthquakes, and investment in new infrastructure, I think it would help them to know their infrastructure strategy is going to be central to consequent work by the council and their consultants – whether that is in resource management plans, economic development strategies or asset management plans.
Unfortunately, the 2015 versions of these big picture infrastructure strategies tend to be buried at the back of Long Term Plans which can run to hundreds of pages, or published in the back alleys of websites, only findable if someone knows what they’re looking for.
If we are going to spend time thinking about these big challenges in an integrated way (which we have to do under the LGA 2002), why not make more of an effort to share what we come up with in a more upfront manner by actively promoting the complete infrastructure strategies — and not just the biggest issues that carry through to the LTP consultation document?