27 May 2011
Yesterday the NSW Government introduced the Infrastructure NSW Bill into the NSW Parliament. This proposed law has the potential to make state government planning more meaningful.
The new law will formally establish “Infrastructure NSW” – a state NSW government agency to be chaired by Nick Greiner. However, it will also impose a statutory requirement on the state government to pursue medium and long-term infrastructure planning.
No state government has ever attempted to impose this level of discipline on itself before.
Under the bill before Parliament, Infrastructure NSW must prepare and submit to the Premier a 20-year state infrastructure strategy. The strategy must assess the current condition of the state’s infrastructure and the state’s infrastructure needs.
According to the bill, the 20-year strategy must identify, “on the basis of detailed, objective and quantitative evidence”:
- current land use plans and population projections;
- deficiencies in the State’s infrastructure; and
- the areas in which deficiencies in the State’s infrastructure network are causing the most serious economic, social or environmental costs.
However, the most important document would be the 5-year infrastructure plan. That’s because medium term projections will prove to be more meaningful than pie-in-the-sky long range forecasts. Governments will also more easily be held to account for infrastructure delivery over a five year period. (The political reality of any 20 year plan is that it will be scrapped and re-written so many times, by different governments.)
Under the proposed law, the 5-year plan will identify specific major infrastructure projects to be undertaken as a priority in that period. The plan may include:
- the rationale for the selection of the priority projects;
- the estimated cost of the priority projects;
- the recommended funding and delivery arrangements for the priority projects; and
- the estimated timeframe for the delivery of the priority projects.
If the government follows through on this process, there will be a much more systematic infrastructure planning process for the state.
We think that a state government focus on the medium and long term planning of its own infrastructure is very welcome.
The proposed law will also allow Infrastructure NSW to prepare and submit to the Premier a “sectoral state infrastructure strategy statement” for any particular sector that the Premier considers significant.
Given the clear problems that parts of NSW have had in coping with urban expansion, the Urban Taskforce will urge the Premier to identify the “urban infrastructure necessary to support growth” as a “significant” sector requiring special infrastructure planning.
The bill is available here.