Infrastructure leaders are considering new user charges as one way to make the most of a $92 billion wish list of projects over the next five to 10 years.
A conference of infrastructure leaders on Monday was told there were probably not enough resources - money and labour - available to complete the lengthy list of priorities, without doing more with existing infrastructure.
Infrastructure chief executive Ross Copland said there was a strong case to do a much better job of looking after existing infrastructure assets and to introduce equitable pricing for their use, which was currently supplied for free.
"How fair or equitable is it to have freeloaders parking their second and third cars or their boat on publicly-owned land that could be redeployed for other uses?"
Adding a road-user congestion fee was another point to consider, Copland said.
"There's a really strong case to be made for getting more use from existing assets."
Copland said work was underway to better understand how to incorporate equity pricing into the equation.
"Leadership is going to be the critical success factor here."
Copland's message appeared to resonate with Infrastructure Minister Megan Woods.
"We won't be able to build our way out of the challenges ahead of us," she said.
"Difficult trade-offs will need to be made and that raises important questions about equity and how we prioritise and pay for infrastructure."