Victoria is set to have its own independent body to oversee the development of infrastructure projects following the launch of new legislation in the state parliament.
Legislators in the Victorian parliament have just tabled the Infrastructure Victoria Bill 2015, which outlines the creation of a Victorian chief engineer as well as the creation of an independent body for expediting infrastructure creation.
Peak industry body Engineers Australia (EA) has hailed the move and the support it will give to state-wide infrastructure development.
“Engineers Australia has long advocated for an independent body to oversee major infrastructure projects in Victoria,” said Glenda Graham, EA’s Victoria Division general manager.
“The newly established role of Victorian chief engineer…[will oversee] the registration of engineers in the state [and] support Infrastructure Victoria’s delivery of projects in a timely and cost effective manner.”
According to Megan Motto, CEO of Consult Australia, the creation of the new infrastructure body will pave the way for more informed and impartial decision-making when it comes to Victoria’s key infrastructure issues, and less wasteful spending of government funds.
“That means we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the East-West Link motorway project, and that taxpayer dollars will go to developing infrastructure rather than paying out contracts,” said Motto.
Motto also hailed the potential for the new body to place greater emphasis on expert advice rather than political interests when it came to key infrastructure decisions.
“While we’re never going to completely take the politics out of decision making around infrastructure project selection, we can at least increase transparency as to what the expert advice is, and force the relevant ministers to explain why they might have disregarded that,” she said.
The Victorian government has highly ambitious plans for infrastructure development throughout the state, to address the growing needs of its rapidly expanding population.
The first budget unveiled by Labor Premier Daniel Andrews in May outlined spending of $22 billion on infrastructure over the next four years, including unprecedented levels investment on public transportation.
Key allocations include $1.5 billion of spending on the start of the Melbourne Metro Rail project and $2 billion on new public transportation vehicles in both Melbourne and other parts of Victoria.
According to Motto, the establishment of an independent advisory body will help to fulfil these kinds of ambitious infrastructure plans.
“The development of 30-year long term infrastructure plans, together with short and medium term priorities, also gives industry greater certainty, and allows us to plan for the future to ensure we’re able to best meet the needs of projects as they are put out to market,” she said.