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Bridget Coates argues NZ must harness the collective power & expertise of our public & financial sector for the transition to a more resilient economy

Banking / opinion
Bridget Coates argues NZ must harness the collective power & expertise of our public & financial sector for the transition to a more resilient economy

By Bridget Coates*

The is no disagreement around our urgent need for funding and financing the transition to a more resilient economy. Nor of the need to remain competitive as the global economy heads for decarbonisation. Our vulnerability has been revealed and we must respond with urgency.

The latest UN climate report shows the world is currently on track to reach 1.5 degrees warming (based on pre-industrial levels) in the 2030s.

“Rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are necessary to achieve deep and sustained emissions reductions and secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says.

Finding creative ways to unleash our finance system is the critical next step.

“If climate goals are to be achieved, both adaptation and mitigation financing would need to increase many-fold,” the IPCC report states. “There is sufficient global capital to close the global investment gaps but there are barriers to redirect capital to climate action.”

We can look at our investment demand as a nation using three broad horizons:

♦ the immediate response to Cyclone Gabrielle and mitigation in the highest risk areas to restore lives and livelihoods of the many devastated communities in Northland, Auckland and the East Coast. Who could forget our East Coast whole communities torn to pieces?

♦ the investments required over a medium-term horizon to build resilience into our energy, transportation and infrastructure systems, and to maintain our global reputation as meaningfully contributing to the goals of the Paris Accord.

♦ the longer term 30-year infrastructure deficit of $180bn as identified by the Infrastructure Commission in 2020.

The numbers are eye-watering. The scale of the financing challenge will certainly test our institutions, public and private sector. But, before we get too buried under the numbers, we need to expand our mindsets and the breadth of our aspirations and consider the levers we might pull.

Governments alone simply cannot afford the scale of financing required and we must find whole-of-economy solutions. This means creating arrangements that utilize public, philanthropic and concessionary capital, to mobilize private investment on a scale that we’ve never experienced before.

We have seen good small-scale pilots here and there that have been promising, but not at the scale needed. We need to find new and creative ways to source capital.

Are we bringing our best minds to the table as we consider our options for meeting our urgent funding and financing needs?

To date, few options have been brought forward. Conventional approaches such as changes in our tax system have been mooted, as have increases in our long-term borrowing ratios.

But there are many more options available to us to unleash global capital markets to address our urgent needs. Not all will be relevant to our situation in Aotearoa New Zealand but, given the scale of our deficit, we need to expand the conversation and challenge ourselves to think much more laterally and creatively than we have tended to in the past.

The shape of our future

Our first challenge is to articulate a cohesive vision, strategy and investment plan for the future of our nation as a high-wage, low-emissions economy so that we can attract the global capital and talent to do this transformational work.

This includes:

1. Developing a domestic and international narrative around our future, and our transition to that future, to build political and financial support across businesses and communities.

2. Outlining sectoral transition pathways and analysis of climate related risks to business and investment strategies.

3. Uniting central and local government and regulated infrastructure in transparent long range planning processes, which are linked with identified budget allocations and other sources of financing in line with our long-range strategies.

Many public sector infrastructure entities overseas excel at communicating the future shape of their cities and countries; Singapore and Melbourne being celebrated examples.

Aligning on the pathways to a positive future helps funders and financiers plan their investment strategies as well as providing future visibility for politicians and citizens.

What is the future shape of a climate-resilient Aotearoa New Zealand?

An investment-ready financial infrastructure

Finance and industry leaders and policy makers will then need to build on this core vision to identify and encourage creative financial options that fit within core Government programmes and ensure regulatory certainty.

Ensuring long-term stability and facilitating the essential finance for climate resilience is a fundamental task for our leaders and regulators. The range of global options must be explored with urgency and the public sector is crucial to ensuring our institutions are prepared to attract, welcome and facilitate these funds flows.

There are several important steps to ensure the pricing and quantity of funds flows and the attractiveness of Aotearoa New Zealand as an investment destination, such as :

♦ Long term planning and policy certainty. Policy advice to improve the overall investment environment. More staff (and perhaps staff with new skills) to help governments identify projects, prioritize them, design concessions that place risks with those best able to bear them, help run tenders for project sponsors/investors and then evaluate proposals.

♦ Streamlined policy processes to attract and facilitate investment.

♦ Creating macroeconomic stability and reducing medium term country risk. At the structural level, to swim with the tide

New Zealand must also build a robust resilient sustainable finance market. Necessary building blocks for this include developing common definitions and standards, which are interoperable with emerging global conventions, such as the ISSB international sustainability reporting standards, green and sustainability linked loan and bond principles, climate disclosure standards (TCFD), which are mandatory in NZ from this year, as well as assurance and other investment disclosure tools.

We must be ready to respond. Capital is available for our urgent infrastructure needs, provided that we meet best practice global standards and expectations.

Widen our sources of capital

Billions of dollars of private capital globally is willing to invest in essential infrastructure, especially in “investment grade” countries like our own.

Many countries have developed sophisticated skills to catalyse flows of funds from the private sector. This is essential given that the investable resources controlled by institutional investors are many billions greater than those funds available to the public sector in every country.

Public/private partnerships (PPP’s), special purpose vehicles (SPV’s) and the funding of local authority projects through the Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act 2020 have been few in number in our country in recent years, and limited partnership opportunities are presented in the Government’s work pipeline.

However, there is abundant evidence, most notably in Australia, demonstrating how successful properly structured PPP’s and SPV’s can be, in mobilising much needed global capital.

Regardless of our track record to date with blended finance projects, the urgency of our challenge is too high and the numbers are too great to reject this option.

As an export nation, and a net-importer of capital, our country needs to retain its trade relationships and economic value proposition in a net-zero future. Our public financing sources can never meet our urgent net-zero transition needs, and they don’t need to.

Our peer countries globally have recognised this and are responding. Through collaboration and constructive dialogue, we must harness the collective power and expertise of our public and financial sector to address these challenges of funding and financing our future.

*Bridget Coates is Chair of the Centre for Sustainable Finance: Toitū Tahua.

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Money in itself is not a resource or some rare commodity. The NZ Dollar is a fiat currency and it is created on demand and as the need arises either by the banks to finance the private sector or by the Reserve Bank to finance the governments expenditure.

There is no particular reason why we need to have foreign investors paying for our infrastructure or any private institution for that matter simply to make a profit from.

In years gone by before modern economics took hold when the country needed something then the government just got on and did it and no questions asked. But now we have all of this nonsense about government debt having to be regulated to 20% of GDP and without any sensible debate about what this debt actually represents or why we even need to have it and only MMT gives us an answer to this question and not the false and fallible mainstream version which gets everything back to front.   


She needs to learn a bit about physics.

It's not 'funding', it's 'supplying' and 'energising'.

Resources and energy - particularly fossil energy - override/outrank/totally-support finance.

Greenwash or ignorance?

Interesting question.


Greenwash or indoctrination?  The next generation are not ignorant, they are indoctrinated from Day 1 at pre-school.


Some of their predecessors think (?) oil is abiotic.

One step away from believing in heaven, hell, and leprechauns.


I never said oil is abiotic.  Perhaps oil is abiotic, maybe not.  PDK, my belief is abiotic is possible (yet unproven), your belief is in leprechauns.  


Call me a maverick... But shouldn't those that benefit the most from the economy be the ones that pay the most to fix it!.

Aye Banks, Maori tribes, large corporations, google, ....


The is no disagreement around our urgent need for funding and financing the transition to a more resilient economy

Off to a bad start with the first sentence then lots of emotive wishful thinking follows

there is plenty of disagreement around such funding - timing, priority, who, where, why etc

and where does NZ sit in the priority queue - UN thinks $3 trillion needed annually but only $1 trillion (give or take a few billion which appears to be just a rounding number these days). Regardless cant imaging why we want or need offshore funding for our "transition" (whatever that means) when we cannot even show sufficient leadership to deal with our existing infrastructural shortfalls which are actually quite manageable if we prioritise 


Se mine above - the UN has no idea either.


Wow! I generally follow the many daily articles flowing from this excellent site. Of course some I agree with, some disagree, and some are pitched at a level beyond my capacity to agree or disagree.

But Bridget Coates article is just, err, truly frightening. Do we actually have people in positions of influence with such powerful self confidence?

She starts briskly with assertion that our need to build a resilient economy is beyond debate. And the process is apparently quite straight forward, starting with a need to articulate a cohesive vision and strategy. Apparently, using the nation's best brains, a poultice of money, and more staff employed by government, we will be half way to achievement. Then the funds will flow in from international sources, possibly from deep pocketed people who may not yet be aware of the powerhouse economic potential of "Outer roa" two small dots somewhere near the South Pole.

Her thesis reminds me of the late unlamented government of Dear Leader who was going to lead her team of 5 million to utopia,...where no one would be poor, no deaths on the roads, much reduced carbon emissions by importing lots of electric cars, houses for all and a quick trip to the airport (if for some strange reason anyone wanted to depart this paradise.)

I rather think it more likely that we will blunder on learning some hard lessons along the lines of those PDK has been preaching for some years past.


Of course there will be a Public - Private partnership to entice the overseas 'investors', indebting NZ taxpayers even more, banks creating more money for big corporates to fuel inflation, all in disguise of jobs and growth.  Hey the Fed has a 'Swap Line' we could use!  We have the best, safest, most flexible, reliable form of energy, in fossil fuels, use them but learn to conserve and I am sure Bridget uses here fair share, from her job, to her house, to the big SUV in her driveway.

If Bridget wants wind, solar, battery powered cars by all means go for it, let the corporates supply and the people demand, western world governments are already bankrupt.  Bridget may be looking for that seat next to Ardern at the next WEF summit.