As part of its COVID response plan, our government has announced that billions of dollars will be allocated to ‘shovel-ready’ infrastructure projects across Aotearoa. This infrastructure package could either lock us into decades of unsustainable energy & transport systems or set us on course towards a more equitable, accessible, low-carbon Aotearoa. The projects that are chosen to be funded are set to be announced as part of Budget 2020.

Our 350 Aotearoa volunteers from across the country have been writing to their local papers to share their thoughts and generate discussion about why it’s important that our government prioritises our Principles for a Just Recovery when allocating infrastructure spending. Here are some of our letters.

Caitlin, Auckland

“On Thursday the government will announce the 2020 budget, this budget will inject billions of dollars into our economy and infrastructure projects to help us recover from the impacts of Covid-19. This investment in infrastructure will have a long-lasting impact on our society and play an important role in shaping our future. Therefore, it is so important that this budget considers the kind of future that New Zealanders hope for; a future that is clean, green and just. It is imperative that the budget centres people and planet at the heart of recovery efforts. We do not want a budget that helps us get back to normal, normal is not enough, we all need to work together for a better future. We have an opportunity to address long term problems of inequality and climate degradation and to build a better, fairer and more sustainable Aotearoa. We do not have to choose between the economy and people or planet if we invest in green infrastructure and green jobs to bring about economic recovery and a sustainable future for Aotearoa.”

James, Wellington

“The government’s shovel-ready initiative is a unique chance to invest in a green and fairer Aotearoa. We are at a critical point in time where we must make the rights decisions now to shape the climate and society we need in the future. We are going to have few if any, more opportunities like this to significantly shift the narrative of infrastructure investment. The time is now. All levels of government, particularly those making decisions on COVID recovery, need to make the right choices today, underpinned by proper process and the treaty, to enable the sustainable future Aotearoa needs.”

Nina, Auckland

“Covid-19 has created unparalleled disruption to our society and economy, but we can still learn from past recovery efforts to rebuild Aotearoa in a sustainable way. In 1988, Cyclone Bola devastated the crops, pasture slopes and infrastructure of the East Coast region and forced thousands of residents to evacuate. To aid the region’s recovery, the government created the East Coast Forestry Project to invest in land restoration and sustainable land use. Since then, more than 40,000ha has been planted or allowed to revert to native bush. It continues to yield environmental and economic benefits over 30 years on.

Much like the Cyclone Bola rebuild, in the coming months and years New Zealand can get economic recovery and environmental sustainability as a two-for-one deal. This can be achieved by investing in accessible and sustainable infrastructure, creating green jobs, and supporting workers to transition into low-carbon industries. This week’s budget is an opportunity to build a resilient economy with social equity and environmental protection at its heart. With only ten years left to avert 1.5°C of global warming, it is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”

Anna, Nelson

“Ministers are currently deciding which ‘shovel-ready’ projects they will support to boost economic recovery from COVID-19. It is imperative that they consider the interrelated crises of ecological decline (notably the climate crisis) and wealth inequality, which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified. Solutions include creating ‘green’ jobs by boosting low carbon industries and building infrastructure for mitigating and adapting to climate change. This can pull New Zealanders out of poverty, enable those in polluting industries to move to low-carbon jobs and create a more sustainable and resilient future for all. The choices made by our government today will shape our society, economy, health, and climate for decades to come. Today I call on our Ministers to take this opportunity to build a better future for all New Zealanders.”

Fiona, Wellington

“I’m writing to express strong support for the government to use this budget to move into a sustainable, nurturing, caring-for-people-and-planet, action plan. Over these weeks of no rushing about, many have taken the opportunity to look at their priorities. Families, feeling safe, respecting others, and the clean blue skies have all appealed. This feels like a big boost of applause for less. As the Prime Minister says, economic growth isn’t everything, it’s the inclusivity of wealth fairly shared, that matters. Let’s not waste the hard-gotten gains of lockdown to return to life and consumerism as it was.”

Erin, Auckland

“Labour ministers are currently thinking about ways to get our economy back up and running, and in these unprecedented times, we have the chance to shift our country away from the (harmful) business as usual path and towards a better future. Jacinda’s government has an unprecedented opportunity to back green infrastructure projects that will not only create jobs but fast-track New Zealand towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy. As a young New Zealander I know that if nothing is done about climate change, I will have to spend much of my working life dealing with the economic insecurity that resource strains and dramatic ecosystem shifts will bring. This Labour-Greens government has the opportunity to avoid this in their response to COVID-19.”

Dave, Christchurch

“Today finance minister Grant Robertson promised to “rebuild better” following the Covid-19 crisis. It has been encouraging see people from many quarters recommending that when the government invests billions of dollars in the rebuild it’s vital those projects are climate-friendly and get us moving towards a low-carbon future. This decade is our last chance to avoid catastrophic climate change. It’s not good enough to just try and “get back to normal”, as that normal was destroying our grandchildren’s future. Before the government will be comfortable doing something revolutionary it has to feel that the public is behind them and they won’t be tossed out at the next election. This necessitates a vision for the future that looks more attractive than the status quo. That’s our biggest challenge – envisioning a civilisation that is not dependent on burning masses of fossil fuels to make us feel happy and secure.”

Erica, Auckland

“As Ministers make final decisions on shovel-ready infrastructure projects, I hope their focus is on creating a more resilient, sustainable future for all New Zealanders. Our people and environment should be at the centre of our country’s recovery approach – to create green jobs that pull New Zealanders out of poverty and enable workers in polluting industries to transition into low-carbon jobs, and to build infrastructure to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis.”

Paddy, Wellington

“Expediting ‘shovel ready’ projects makes sound economic sense in the current crisis, however, removing public consultation entirely from the process, as per David Parker’s proposed RMA fast-track channel, seems a step too far in my view, and considerably heightens the risk of poor decisions being made that we could pay for dearly down the track. Leaky homes immediately jumps to mind. I can appreciate the need for speed, however, it should be possible to significantly shorten the consultation window (if appropriately flagged) rather than jettison it entirely. I’m sure those people wanting to make a submission would be able to adapt to a quicker timeline. Maybe the trade-off is no in-person submissions? Consultation is about ensuring decision-makers (even expert ones) have as much relevant information as possible – by removing this step, decision makers risk being blindsided by unforeseen issues that a targeted consultation would expose. We should really use the Covid-19 recovery to finally put a stop to lumbering future generations with social and ecological debt. I fear by removing consultation we risk exactly this.”

David, Auckland

“Experts say that now is likely to be our best possible chance ever, to take effective action to reduce carbon emissions. The big issue at stake right now is how the Government will allocate the billions of dollars to new projects. It is necessary that all proposals be assessed in light of the extreme need to reduce emissions. This consideration must be at the top of the list. The experts tell us that if we carry on as we have been doing, our species will cease to exist. And the changes need to be big. With the world in lockdown emissions have reduced but we would need these reductions, or better to occur every year for 10 years to meet the target. We can’t afford to miss the target. There is no backstop. We must, Government and people, take the required action now, in this propitious situation, or we almost certainly never will. It will never be easier. It will be the young and the as yet unborn who will bear the pain. Let’s all pull together on this.

Breanna, Christchurch

“Decisions are currently being made on a budget to help our economy recover from COVID19. This is an opportunity for a turning point for Aotearoa’s environmental and social wellbeing. I urge ministers to make these decisions with the long term consequences in mind. Workers need to be supported in transitioning to low-carbon jobs and decisions need to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Projects that enable a more equitable, low-carbon future should be prioritised.”

Jason, Auckland

“Any talk of recovery from Covid-19 must include a move toward degrowth in our economic consumption. No longer can we endlessly consume earths natural resources and hope that by simply changing the way we produce energy, we will magically ‘fix’ our climate crisis. Billions of dollars are about to be spent and it is likely that the burden of repayment will outlive our generation and be passed onto the next. Not only will this generation be living with the financial burden from Covid-19, but also with the environmental & financial impacts of climate change. For that generation to successfully navigate these twin burdens, we have to be adapting our economic model ‘today’. The only way I can see us achieving this is by transitioning toward a low -carbon circular economic system, one which predominantly utilises the resources we ‘already have’, rather than endlessly extracting ‘new’ ones. The other challenge we face, is to achieve this whilst also uncoupling renewables from the fossil fuels used in their manufacture. If we base our transition in the Te Tiriti o Waitangi principle of partnership, a system such a this could provide jobs, living wages, welfare & social services for our people.”

Adam, Wellington

“Firstly my heart goes out to all the people affected by the changing circumstances and times. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is just the beginning of change. For so long many senior decision-makers have taken the environment for granted. Now decisions need to embrace sustainability in the true sense, which means decisions are made placing environment and people at the core and not money. If we look after Aotearoa the money required will be there now and in the future. If we don’t look after our country it won’t be. Make sure the shovels dig up land to support us all grow, not just for short-term gain or stuck old thinking.

Projects need to make life easier for people and the environment – more public transport so it’s cheap, easy to use, and a realistic option for many in large cities, greater support for farmers looking to be regenerative, increased tree planting and water management to restore health to our rivers and streams, making them safe for children – all this can be accelerated. We’d lower our carbon footprint too. Now is the time to change to look after New Zealanders and our land, for now, and the future.”