A fast track to Public-Private Partnerships?

Hon Bill English has been talking PPPs… finally!  The Deputy PM and Infrastructure Minister spoke at the New Zealand Council for Infrastructure Development this morning outlining some of his thinking on PPPs.

The big question is when are we going to see the product of this talk?  The Government really needs to get some decent PPP contracts signed before the next election to show that they mean business – and can be believed that it’s not all talk.

It’s encouraging to see Bill say:

“There is a range of opportunities for more private sector participation in prisons – from the current approach where input is limited to construction, right through to designing, financing, building, maintaining and operating facilities.”

Aside from roading (where the general public  seem a little more ‘ready’ to explore PPP), prisons are the next most obvious place to start.  I would hope that using the private sector to build NZ prisons would see them built faster, more effectively and certainly at a reduced cost than public sector efforts.  It’ll also be interesting to see what contracts are put in place to maintain the prisons.  The question is whether a National Government would go as far as allowing private companies to also manage prisons and prison population?

English points out that:

“In the Budget, we outlined capital spending of $7.5 billion over the next five years.  Much of this will be used to build and upgrade schools, roads, housing, hospitals and telecommunications.”

Why not ensure that there is good value for money on that spend and allow a bit more private involvement?

Much has been said about private involvement in the building of prisons, not so much has said about schools.  The upside of a PPP to get a school built (and maintained for a specific and significant period of time) is that Principals can focus on the day-to-day running of the school NOT on the maintenance and repair of buildings.  I think there’s a lot of scope for some really positive achievement in this area from this Government; whether they have the will to do it may be a different story.

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