New South Wales Treasurer, Daniel Mookhey, has delivered the new New South Wales Government’s 2023-24 Budget, stating that the Budget is treating railways and roads “as assets to revitalise; not liabilities to neglect” and that it signalled “the beginning of a new age of public investment” for the state. 

On 19 September Mr Mookhey delivered the state Budget, the first for the new Labor Government. 

Mr Mookhey said the Budget aims to end the era of privatisation.

“This Budget builds more homes amidst a housing crisis. It funds more essential workers for our public services. It rescues the energy transition with new investment,” he said. 

“It aids disaster-hit cities and regions with help to repair. And this Budget cuts waste, ends pork-barrelling, funds what works, and lowers debt for our children and our grandchildren.”

Mr Mookhey said that above all, this Budget delivers the people of New South Wales the fresh start they voted for. 

“Busting the wages cap, beginning toll-reform, backing first-home buyers, building new and better public schools and hospitals, restoring TAFE, fixing social housing, repairing regional and rural roads, helping small businesses, and wrangling debt back under control, this Budget sets forth how the Minns Government will use the people’s resources to improve our people’s lives.”

Rail and roads in focus 

Mr Mookhey said that the New South Wales Government is looking to invest in real projects, not waste billions on pipedreams. 

He listed a number of projects that the Budget will support, including: 

  • The Sydney Metro City and Southwest is set to receive an extra $1 billion to get back on track, after years of delays and cost blowouts
  • $303 million have been reserved for a Western Sydney Rapid Bus Network to the future Western Sydney International Airport
  • The Parramatta Light Rail Stage Two will be expedited by reserving $200 million to get construction started
  • Seven new Parramatta River Class ferries for $43 million, and $71 million to return Freshwater Class ferries to the Circular Quay-Manly route
  • $300 million are set to be spent upgrading train station car parks and installing new lifts, ramps and footbridges

“We will also give people more options to walk or ride to their destination by doubling the state-wide investment in Active Transport Infrastructure with an additional $60 million,” Mr Mookhey said. 

However, there has been criticism of the Budget’s commitment to the rail sector, following the axing of a fast rail project. 

In an article published on 19 September, the Guardian said that despite spending $100 million on studies for the program, the New South Wales Government has axed its fast rail project, which was originally planned to connect Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. 

The Guardian said that the project was expected to cost tens of billions, and as such the State Government has elected to “de-scope” the program, in order “to get the state’s infrastructure pipeline back on stable footing.” 

Rail isn’t the only sector getting some attention, with Mr Mookhey stating that, in response to Western Sydney’s booming population, the 2023 Budget has set aside $2.4 billion for more roads.

“This Budget includes a commitment of $770 million to establish an Urban Roads Fund to bust congestion in metro areas,” he said. 

Further road investments include:

  • $106.2 million on the M7-M12 Interchange
  • $95.7 million to improve the Western Distributor
  • $100 million for the upgrading of the Bells Line of Road 

“Roads right across our vast state require significant improvement and repair,” Mr Mookhey said.

“A new $390 million Regional Emergency Road Repair Fund will help councils rebuild local roads destroyed in natural disasters.

“A further $334.0 million Regional Roads Fund will build and maintain new and existing roads across the state.”

ARA responds 

Australian Railway Association (ARA) CEO, Caroline Wilkie, said that it was encouraging to see the New South Wales Government continue its commitment to the vital Sydney Metro projects, maintaining funding allocations for Sydney Metro West, Sydney Metro to Western Sydney Airport and Sydney Metro City and Southwest.

“A safe, reliable and sustainable transport system is essential to enabling New South Wales communities to thrive as it is proven to deliver great economic, social and environmental benefits,” Ms Wilkie said.

“These city-shaping transport infrastructure projects in New South Wales not only create tens of thousands of jobs during construction but, once complete, provide a vital connection for communities and reduce congestion on our busy roads.

“It is critical that we increase the capacity of the rail network to meet growing demand, with faster and more frequent and reliable services.”

Ms Wilkie said it was critical the Sydney Metro West project continued as planned, in order to meet the needs of Sydney’s growing western suburbs.

The ARA also said that it looks forward to the completion of the Sydney Metro West Review so the full benefits of the once-in-a-generation project can be realised by the community.

Ms Wilkie said rail plays an important role in the decarbonisation of transport and meeting Australia’s future net-zero target.

“Greater use of public transport will be key to reducing emissions in our communities, while also supporting improved health outcomes – one commuter train takes 578 cars off the road,” Ms Wilkie said. 

CCF NSW: “the Budget missed an opportunity” 

Civil Contractors Federation (CCF) New South Wales CEO, Kylie Yates, said while funding new hospitals, schools and roads was welcome, the Budget should have included the outcome of the Sydney Metro Review.

“The Budget missed an opportunity to end the uncertainty around the Sydney Metro Review, and allow civil businesses to plan their pipeline of work,” Ms Yates said.

The CCF said that despite the lack of certainty in some areas, it welcomed the highlights of the government’s infrastructure pipeline.

“Infrastructure investment creates jobs and keeps our economy thriving, so it’s great to see the New South Wales Government’s commitment to a strong pipeline,” Ms Yates said.

“We also look forward to the Government delivering on its promise to maximise procurement opportunities for local businesses vying for government contracts, cutting red tape and ensuring appropriate risk transfer in contracts.”

ACA: Industry needs certainty

ACA CEO, Jon Davies, said that whilst the ACA welcomed the continued inclusion of funding in the Budget for the Sydney Metro West project, it is unreasonable to expect industry to wait until the end of the year to get answers on the timing of the remaining sections still to be procured.

“Contractors had already assembled large teams of skilled personnel to bid and ultimately undertake these complex projects, when the review into the Sydney Metro project was announced,” Mr Davies said. 

“These resources cannot easily be redeployed and so many are simply waiting for a decision to be made by the government rather than being put to a productive use.

“We also note that the Budget papers discuss reprofiling of infrastructure expenditure in line with the first tranche of decisions from the Federal Strategic Infrastructure Review, and call for the government to provide updated details on the timing of budgeted projects as soon as possible.

“Industry needs certainty and the Budget needs savings, by increasing engagement and collaboration with industry we can achieve both.” 

Mr Davies also noted that ACA’s recently released Nailing Construction Productivity report identified that New South Wales could be saving $17.3 billion annually if it closed the productivity gap between construction and other major industries.   

“Industry knows how to become more productive but there are many obstacles to realising that the government, such as through the way it procures projects, is able to remove and drive positive change that will ultimately flow into the private sector and throughout the whole supply chain.

“ACA is already working collaboratively with a number of government agencies to realise these savings, but Budget pressures and scarcity of resources highlight the need to prioritise and expedite this work.”

Roads Australia comments

Roads Australia (RA) CEO, Ehssan Veiszadeh, said the continued investment in the roads sector, including $8.6 billion in the 2023-24 financial year, would be welcomed by industry stakeholders.

“RA is pleased to see the New South Wales Government’s first Budget largely continuing the state’s commitment to infrastructure delivery at an uncertain time for the economy, while charting a pathway back to surplus,” Mr Veiszadeh said.

“It is pleasing to see investment in the regional road network and funding for building resilience across Western Sydney in the wake of significant natural disasters.

“As we await the outcomes of State and Federal reviews, this Budget will provide the industry with a level of certainty around New South Wales’s infrastructure build.”

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