The Queensland Government has released its first State Infrastructure Plan in over three years, committing $500 million dollars into a new State Infrastructure Fund.
A draft of the plan was released for consultation in October 2015 (see our previous Alert for more information), with the final report issued on 13 March 2016.
The plan sets the strategic direction for infrastructure in Queensland over the next four years, along with a longer term program of 'project opportunities' such as identified infrastructure 'service gaps' which Government wishes to close by working together with the private sector. The plan addresses a broad range of sectors, including transport, energy, water, health, education and training, digital, justice and public safety, arts, culture and recreation, and social housing. The Government's five key priorities for future investment are summarised in our previous Alert.
The Property Council of Australia has labelled the plan 'a recognition of the Government's funding challenge', pointing to the growing gap between available funding and infrastructure needs, and the continued emphasis by Government on market led proposals as a mechanism to drive private sector investment (see our previous Alert for more information).
Projects set to receive funding
Of the $500 million, $300 million will go towards seven road and rail initiatives in a bid to increase capacity and reliability. Roads set to receive a boost are the Ipswich Motorway Upgrade (Stage 1 Darra to Rocklea), the Pacific Motorway-Gateway Motorway Merge Upgrade (southbound lanes), Dawson Highway (Gladstone – Biloela timber bridge replacement package), Kawana and Nicklin Way (Sunshine Coast University Hospital intersection upgrades package), Riverway Drive duplication, Townsville (Gollogly Lane – Allambie Lane) and the Rockhampton Road Train Access. The North Coast Line Capacity Improvement Project is also set to receive funds.
The Government has called on the Federal Government to match its contributions towards projects such as the Ipswich Motorway, the Pacific Motorway, the North Queensland Stadium, as well as funding for Cross River Rail.
The balance of the funds are intended for 'broader uses', including $180 million to deliver 'regionally significant infrastructure projects identified by communities for communities' and $20 million for business cases on priority projects. Deputy Premier and Infrastructure Minister Jackie Trad says that the business case phase will leverage private sector and Federal Government investment, along the same lines as the $5 billion Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility concessional loans scheme.
New bodies and plans
The plan is part of the Government's broader strategy to update the way Queensland plans, prioritises and invests in infrastructure. It follows the establishment last year of Building Queensland as an independent statutory body charged with providing independent and transparent expert advice to Government on major infrastructure projects (see our previous Alert for more information).
The plan includes the proposed establishment of:
- an Infrastructure Cabinet Committee, to drive infrastructure coordination and development;
- an Infrastructure Portfolio Office, to coordinate and integrate government infrastructure, land-use and economic planning;
- five new strategic infrastructure network plans (Transport, Water, Energy, Digital and Social infrastructure);
- a joint industry/government Infrastructure Innovation Taskforce; and
- a Community Infrastructure Reference Group.
Government has also committed to reviewing the currently fragmented infrastructure grants programs.
A renewed focus on 'value capture'
In a further attempt to find strategies to overcome the funding challenge, Government is seeking to enhance its ability to fund and finance infrastructure through a focus on 'value capture' by exploring alternative means of funding and financing. The Deputy Premier will host a symposium next Monday, 21 March 2016, where the Government will analyse value sharing along with industry leaders with a view to piloting a new value capture model in the months to come.