New South Wales is set to splurge more than $60 billion on infrastructure over the next four years as the state seeks to attack traffic congestion and provide for growth in key corridors such as Sydney’s West.
Unveiling the 2014/15 State Budget on Tuesday, the government said it would spend around $61.499 billion on infrastructure over the four year forward estimates period, including $15.038 billion in 2014/15 - up from the latest estimate of $14.135 billion in the current financial year.
And whilst investment in utilities is set to average just $4.3 billion per annum over the next four years (down from $4.6 billion per year in the three years to June 2014 and $5.9 billion per annum in the four years prior to that), the state’s own contribution general infrastructure will average $8.8 billion per year from 2014/15 to 2017/18 - well up, for instance, against the $5.9 billion annual average in the four years to June 2011.
A further amount of almost $9 billion over the forward estimates period will come from Commonwealth investment.
In 2014/15, around $863 million will be spent on the North West Rail Link whilst $398 million, $265 million and $103 million will go to WestConnex, the CBD to South East Light Rail and the South West Rail Link respectively.
The government will also fund a feasibility study into a Northern Beaches motorway tunnel, an extension of the F6 and route corridor for the M9 – North, South and West.
Meanwhile, in the housing sector, the upper threshold in order to qualify for the First Home Owners Grant will rise from $650,000 to $750,000.
The latest announcements come as the government forecasts a deficit of $283 million in 2014/15, along with an expected return to surplus the following year.
The 2014/15 result was negatively skewed by a decision on the part of Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey to bring forward a $703 million payment to the state relating to Pacific Highway upgrades which was originally slated for 2014/15 into 2013/14.
Without that, and recently announced federal cuts to school and hospital funding, the state government says the result would have been a surplus of nearly $2 billion.
Treasurer Mike Baird said the state’s infrastructure program was necessary to address congestion, especially in Sydney’s fast growing western suburbs.
“Each year a Sydney commuter, who goes to and from home, is subject to an extra 185 hours of travel time per year due to congestion. Stranded on a train platform, or sandwiched on a bus, sitting in a car on the M4, M5, M1, or on roads like Victoria, Parramatta, The Spit or the Princes Highway,” Baird said.
“An extra 185 hours equates to losing a full week, every year stuck in traffic. Every year, it’s costing the people of New South Wales $5 billion.
“We could, as Labor did, put up the 'no vacancy' sign, declare it all too hard, and not build for our future. Alternatively, we can take action to deliver generations of benefits.”
The budget follows last week’s announcement that the state government had approved a plan to sell off around 49 percent of the state’s electricity distribution network.