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What is Social Infrastructure?

Infrastructure can broadly be defined as long-term physical assets that operate in markets with high barriers to entry and enable the provision of goods and services.

Social Infrastructure is a subset of the infrastructure sector and typically includes assets that accommodate social services. As set out in the table below, examples of Social Infrastructure Assets include schools, universities, hospitals, prisons and community housing. Social Infrastructure does not typically extend to the provision of social services, such as the provision of teachers at a school or custodial services at a prison.

In contrast, economic infrastructure supports economic activity and is often characterised by ‘user-pays’ or demand-based revenue streams (such as tolls on toll roads or landing fees for an airport).  In New Zealand, Social Infrastructure is almost exclusively provided by a central or local government (or related entities such as district health boards and universities). The development and provision of Social Infrastructure is well suited to PPPs, which have been used successfully to deliver public infrastructure since the early 1990s in the United Kingdom11, and more recently in Australia.

Examples of Social Infrastructure Assets
  • Medical facilities
  • Ancillary infrastructure (e.g. offices, carparks, training facilities)
  • Schools (primary and secondary)
  • Tertiary facilities
  • Residential student accommodation
  • State or Council housing
  • Defence force housing
Civic and Utilities
  • Community & sports facilities
  • Local government facilities
  • Water and wastewater treatment
  • Bus stations
  • Park and rides
  • Availability-based roading (excluding demand-risk toll roads)
Corrections and Justice
  • Prisons
  • Court houses



11 PFI, “Strengthening Long-term Partnerships”, page 12, available at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/pfi _strengthening_long-term_partnerships.htm

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