Australia’s infrastructure: are our priorities in check?

With so many projects competing for state and federal funding, it can be easy to wonder if our priorities are in check. Infrastructure Australia answered this question when it released an update to the Infrastructure Priority List in February.

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The IA Board has positively assessed projects including the M1 Pacific Motorway-Gateway Motorway Merge Upgrade in Queensland.

Infrastructure Australia (IA) maintains the Infrastructure Priority List to help Australian governments make authoritative, integrated decisions and invest in projects that best meet our future infrastructure needs.

The List is informed by the data from the Australian Infrastructure Audit and extensive consultation with State and Territory governments, business and the community.

In February 2016, IA published the List alongside the landmark Australian Infrastructure Plan, which set out the nation’s long-term infrastructure reform and project investment agenda.

Since then, the Priority List has become the reference point for the most important infrastructure investments Australia needs over the next 15 years. Australia’s political leaders regularly consult the List as a source of informed analysis on our most pressing infrastructure needs, and to determine which projects should be prioritised for state and federal funding.

Through the List and our rigorous assessment framework, IA has achieved something other Western nations have long sought to achieve – an objective and evidence-based list of the projects that will deliver the best long-term outcomes for all infrastructure users.

The impact of the Priority List

In the past twelve months, the Infrastructure Australia Board has positively assessed a record number of business cases for major infrastructure projects, and for this reason, the organisation has updated the List.

Projects recently assessed by IA include transformational projects such as Melbourne Metro (Victoria), Western Sydney Airport (NSW), WestConnex (NSW), Moorebank Intermodal Terminal (NSW), North–South Corridor Darlington Project (SA), Perth Forrestfield Airport Link (WA) and Inland Rail (National).

These large-scale projects will change the shape of their respective cities and regions, and ensure that as a nation we are better equipped to meet the challenges of the future.

Other projects the Board has positively assessed, such as the M1 Pacific Motorway-Gateway Motorway Merge Upgrade (Queensland), the Bruce Highway Upgrade-Caloundra Road to Sunshine Motorway (Queensland) and the M80 Ring Road Upgrade (Victoria) will reduce congestion on vital parts of our road network, connecting our regions, towns and cities.

New projects and initiatives

The List has been refreshed and now includes seven High Priority and eleven Priority Projects with a total capital value of around $60 billion. Each of these projects is underpinned by a robust business case, meaning governments and the community can have confidence the projects have strategic merit and are truly in the national interest.

The proposed relocation of the University of Tasmania’s STEM Facilities to Hobart’s CBD is one such example. Listed as a Priority Initiative in the 2016 Priority List, the business case has now been assessed by the IA Board and been moved up to a Priority Project on the revised Priority List.

This project involves relocating the University’s Science, Engineering and Technology faculty to a new purpose-built facility in Hobart’s CBD. The move will drive an increase in domestic and overseas students at the University and directly support urban regeneration in Hobart.

IA has also added a project to upgrade the Northern Road (NSW) to the Priority List. The addition of this project is another important step in harnessing the expected population and employment growth in the Western Sydney Priority Growth Area.

The revised Priority List also includes 82 Initiatives. These are the infrastructure proposals identified as having the potential to address a nationally significant problem, but which require further development.

The revised High Priority Initiatives on the List includes mass transit options for Parramatta to Sydney CBD (NSW) and the remaining sections of Ipswich Motorway Rocklea-Darra (Queensland).

The redevelopment of Sydney’s Central Station (NSW), Brisbane to Gold Coast Transport Corridor Upgrades (Queensland) and the Wellington Dam Water Infrastructure Development (WA) are also listed as Priority Initiatives. Each of these initiatives represent vitally needed infrastructure. The Infrastructure Australia Board looks forward to assessing high quality, fully developed business cases for these initiatives in the future.

While we are now seeing significant improvements in strategic, long-term infrastructure planning and business case development in Australia’s states and territories, there is still much work to do. IA is committed to continuing to strengthen its assessment framework to support better project selection and delivery across the country.

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