INFRASTRUCTURE NSW last week released the 'State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014', which contains 30 investment recommendations – valued at $18.9 billion – for the next round of critical infrastructure for New South Wales.
The report, which was prepared at the request of the Premier to guide how proceeds from the 'Rebuilding NSW' initiative could be spent, recommends the $4.5 billion Western Harbour Tunnel, the $7 billion Sydney Rapid Transit project and $1 billion for the Western Sydney Rail upgrade program. The NSW Government has accepted all recommendations of the report.
Other major projects recommended in the report include the $1.8 billion WestConnex Northern and Southern Extensions, $600 million for the Parramatta CBD Public Transport Improvement Program and $300 million for the Bus Rapid Transit and Bus Priority Program.
According to Infrastructure NSW, independent modelling by Deloitte Access Economics has found that if implemented effectively, the 30 recommendations would increase the Gross State Product by $30.9 billion and add 122,000 more jobs.
The Rebuilding NSW initiative, which will be taken to the March 2015 election, involves the transfer of 49 per cent of the government's ownership of a range of electricity transmission and distribution companies across to the private sector, in the form of a 99-year lease. Proceeds from the lease would be put into the government's dedicated infrastructure fund, Restart NSW.
Infrastructure NSW Chairman Graham Bradley said that accelerating much needed infrastructure has the potential to deliver significant economic and social benefits to the community.
"There is considerable capacity to deliver elements of the Government's infrastructure program sooner—in transport, health, water and culture, sporting and environmental infrastructure," he said.
"The 30 major projects and programs we have recommended are strategically important and economically sound. They should be brought forward, with final business cases prepared over the next 18 months.
"This will allow the NSW Government to take budgetary decisions in a timely fashion, after the proposed Rebuilding NSW transaction."
Some of the other recommendations of the State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014 include:
- $400 million for Smart Motorways investments on the M4, the Warringah Freeway and Southern Cross Drive-General Holmes Drive;
- $200 to upgrade the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS) and the Transport Management Centre (TMC);
- $300 million for the Urban Roads Pinch Points Program and a further $300 million for the Sydney-Illawarra Pinch Points Program;
- $4.1 billion for regional transport projects, including $200 million for the Bridges for the Bush Program, $500 million for the Fixing Country Roads Program, $400 million for the Fixing Country Rail Program and $1 billion for the Regional Growth Roads Program;
- The $600 million Sports Stadia Infrastructure Program;
- The $600 million Cultural Infrastructure Program; and
- $2 billion for education and health including the $700 million Schools Growth Program, the $300 million Regional Schools Renewal Program and the $600 million Hospitals Growth Program.
Lease allows for 'breakthrough' projects: IPA
Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) said the planned lease of the electricity poles and wires is allowing NSW to plan for 'breakthrough' transport projects.
"New mass transit and road tunnels under the harbour will be breakthroughs for Sydney, but they will not happen without the windfall from the electricity leases," said IPA Chief Executive Brendan Lyon.
"The poles and wires are our big chance, because they make very large, very complex and very necessary projects possible, because of the windfall funding.
"If we get the poles and wires leased, NSW will be a different state in 10 years, because of the scale of public infrastructure that we will be able to get done with the proceeds," Mr Lyon said.
Infrastructure proposals essential for a growing state: Urban Taskforce
Urban Taskforce said Infrastructure NSW's State Infrastructure Strategy Update demonstrates the dramatic impact that selling part of the poles and wires can have in preparing Sydney and NSW for future growth.
"The Sydney Rapid Transit proposal at $7 billion and the extra $600 million for the Parramatta Light Rail along with the potential to extend the Sydney Light Rail to La Peruse are critical projects that will support future higher density growth in Sydney," said Urban Taskforce CEO, Chris Johnson.
"We must use the linear arteries of transport systems to focus future growth in metropolitan areas and these projects can do exactly this. Sydney will need to double the 1.66 million homes it currently has over the next 50 years and the best locations for this dramatic growth will be along public transport routes.
"The overall package of infrastructure projects covers a vast range of locations and different facilities. This demonstrates the incredible gain to the NSW community that comes with the sale of the poles and wires.
"This is a once in a generation opportunity to kick start NSW and particularly Sydney into the next stage of our growth. Inevitably our urban areas will need precincts of increased density and for this to maintain our lifestyle we will need the infrastructure to support this.
"The next step will be to align Sydney's planned growth with the proposed infrastructure and we look forward to seeing this in the Metropolitan Strategy," Mr Johnson said.
Infrastructure strategy can turbocharge productivity: Property Council
The Property Council of Australia said the State Infrastructure Strategy Update makes a compelling case to unlock value from the state's energy assets.
"It is time to embark on a new era of infrastructure spending that helps create a more productive, liveable and sustainable state," NSW Executive Director Glenn Byres said.
"Headline items like Sydney Rapid Transit are desperately needed – and the prospect of such a transformational project being constructed within the next decade is exciting.
"But it is also pleasing to see an emphasis being placed on smart long-term choices like investment in freight networks and corridor reservations.
"We need to get ahead of the curve with Sydney's population forecast to surge by 1.6 million in the next 15 years and a strong bent towards growth in our west.
"We do however urge Government to get on with the task of releasing the new Metropolitan Plan for Sydney as it will help shape the future of our city.
"It is an essential companion document that has lingered in draft form for too long and is needed to set the tone and direction for growth over the next 20 years."
'Don't forget the smaller projects': UDIA
The Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) NSW welcomed the government's commitment to support the recommendations of the State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014.
UDIA NSW Chief Executive Stephen Albin said the 30 recommendations made by Infrastructure NSW are vital to supporting a growing state.
"We look forward to hearing in more detail what the current opposition proposes to do to deliver infrastructure to support growth," Mr Albin said.
"We'd also like to know what both major parties plan to do specifically to unlock more housing in greenfields areas because there are thousands of lots sitting dormant around the state because of delays in infrastructure delivery."
However, Mr Albin added that there are plenty of smaller projects that need to be made a priority, including greater resources to speed up the roll out of infrastructure and services to new development sites, particularly in the north and south west where there are significant delays.
More information about the State Infrastructure Strategy Update 2014 is available from the Infrastructure NSW website at <http://www.infrastructure.nsw.gov.au/>. The document is also available directly from this link (PDF: 14.39MB).