We live in interesting times.
The almost three/four month old State Government in Queensland has demonstrated a willingness to listen and engage with industry, and is working through a methodical approach towards infrastructure policy.
However, the most recent Westpac Group CCIQ Pulse Survey of Business Conditions has revealed that confidence in the Queensland economy had been adversely impacted by drought conditions, a slowdown in mining sector investment, elevated unemployment levels, and uncertainty surrounding major infrastructure projects.
It was pleasing to see one of the Queensland Government’s first steps was to appoint David Quinn as interim Chief Executive of Building Queensland, who has been given a mandate to establish the organisation within the existing departmental structure ahead of the legislation to formally establish it as an independent body later in the year.
Industry is looking forward to a coordinated and integrated approach to infrastructure planning, prioritisation and delivery through the establishment of Building Queensland and the publication of the State Infrastructure Plan.
Once established, Building Queensland will provide independent expert advice to government on Queensland's infrastructure priorities. This will not only provide an opportunity to enhance the long term benefits to our community, but will hopefully remove some of the current uncertainty through a depoliticised decision framework
The immediate challenges are that implementation of these measures by the State Government will take time, and they won’t solve the infrastructure funding dilemma.
The hopefully imminent announcements of preferred tenderers for key major projects such as Gateway Upgrade North and Toowoomba Second Range Crossing will assist in lifting confidence in the short term. Such confidence would also likely be supplemented given further project funding announcements in federal, state and local government budgets.
So what can we do as an industry?
With all three levels of governments indicating a willingness to listen, our industry must use this opportunity to engage with ideas, and work with governments and communities at all levels to develop these ideas into appropriate projects.
There are successful examples elsewhere – look to Transurban’s recent proposal to expand capacity on the West Gate Freeway and provide a new connection from the West Gate Freeway to CityLink in Melbourne.
Transurban has taken the lead to develop an infrastructure solution to an identified need, and given that you can’t have infrastructure for no cost, proposed funding mechanisms to enable implementation. This is supported with clarity from the Victorian Government about how it will receive and consider market generated proposals.
With a framework in place, and active industry participation, it is possible to enhance our infrastructure and improve confidence.