There is a new direction at the Beehive and it will affect the engineering profession. Earlier this week, the 52nd New Zealand Parliament opened with a Labour-New Zealand First Coalition in charge, supported by the Greens.

Water is rising up the political agenda. Minister for Environment and Economic Development David Parker straddles the interface between environment and economy. Clever engineering to clean up rivers and drinking water is at a premium.

Big changes are afoot in the energy and transport sectors. There is a fresh commitment to a zero-carbon economy by 2050. Bad news for the oil, gas and mining sector with the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicating that this year’s block offer will be the last for explorers and job losses in the sector should be expected.

A climate change commission is to be established next year under Climate Change Minister James Shaw. The engineering sector needs to be at that table if ambitious targets are going to be met.

In the regions, rail is back on the agenda. In Auckland, at least one major roading project is to be cancelled and light rail accelerated.

Transport and Housing Minister Phil Twyford is pedalling fast forward. The cycle Skypath across the Harbour Bridge is to be the first iconic engineering solution off the blocks.

How to accelerate building is one of those hard questions - to which the answer is likely to include more pre-fabrication. Factory production and automation is the house order of the day.

Building and Construction Minister Jenny Salesa comes from the education sector and is proud to be New Zealand’s first Tongan Minister. Expect her to lift the bar on building standards and take no short-cuts on safety.

Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones has money to spend on regional infrastructure. He also has a million trees to plant as Minister for Forestry, with the Forestry portfolio separating out from Primary Industries.

So we’re back to the future with bicycles, trams, prefabs and a national forestry department. But this time it will be with the aid of the microchip and artificial intelligence.

The engineering sector needs to be front and centre in decision-making for these changes to actually happen. We’ve provided a briefing to Minister Salesa on key engineering issues and look forward to working with her to bring engineering to life. We’ll also be engaging with other Ministers in key portfolios.