Victorians are being asked for feedback on 95 proposed actions as the state plans for 30 years of infrastructure success.

In an online presentation and Q&A session last Friday, Infrastructure Victoria Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Operating Officer Johnathan Spears called for feedback on Victoria’s Draft 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy released in December.

“We would love to hear from you as stakeholders about what you think of the draft strategy,” Spears said.

“Are there recommendations in the draft that are really important and that you really want to back? Are there some that you think maybe there could be some nuance and improvement to them and some additional evidence? Are there some that you think we have got it wrong and there is a better way or something that we have missed?

“We would love to hear from you.”

Containing 95 recommendations, the draft strategy aims to achieve four objectives.

First, it aims to respond to long-term challenges.

These include climate change, the need to transition energy supplies, new technologies which affect infrastructure demand, the need for infrastructure to help mitigate further pandemics, the need for resilience to global economic and geopolitical shocks and opportunities to move toward a circular economy.

Recommendations include:

  • Supporting the energy transition through measures which support electric vehicle uptake, supporting augmentation of transmission infrastructure to accommodate new renewable energy generation, identifying and developing renewable energy zones, requiring 7-Star energy ratings for new homes by 2022 (increasing to 8 stars by 2025), mandating disclosure of home energy ratings and mandating stronger energy standards for government owned buildings
  • Responding to climate change by updating and expanding practical instructions on integrating climate related risk into infrastructure assessment, reviewing climate change consequences for Victoria’s infrastructure needs and priorities, considering multiple options to augment water source supply (recycled water, stormwater harvesting etc.), modernising and upgrading irrigation and upgrading the emergency water network
  • Embracing technological opportunities by upgrading regulations to allow for autonomous vehicles, developing open access ticketing platforms to facilitate integration of public transport modes with new mobility services, transforming road network operations by integrating management systems for different road-based transport nodes and using innovation to deliver better modes of healthcare, modernised courts and a more responsive police service.
  • Building a circular economy by focusing efforts to upgrade waste processing infrastructure for priority materials, updating recycling standards and specifications (including by requiring the public sector to use recycled materials where possible), reducing recyclable material contamination by implementing behavioural change programs to reduce contamination of curb side and commercial collections of separation of glass, paper, cardboard and organic materials, improving infrastructure planning for managing residual waste and clarifying the role of waste to energy facilities.

On these issues, Infrastructure Victoria is seeking feedback on several matters.

These include:

  • The best ways to support motorists to move toward electric vehicles
  • How to make infrastructure resilient to climate change
  • The best ways to support new infrastructure-related technology, and
  • How the government can support the move toward a circular economy.

Second, the strategy seeks to help manage urban change.

Here, it says several things need to be done.

First, the plan talks of a need to better integrate infrastructure planning and land use planning. Its recommendations include developing and publishing long-term plans for priority infrastructure sectors over five years, immediately developing a transport plan and requiring transport and land-use plans to align.

Next it identifies a potential need to reform infrastructure contributions to pay for new infrastructure across greenfield and urban renewal sites. Toward this end, it calls for a review of the infrastructure contributions system to create a system which is both efficient and consistent and which raises sufficient money to fund local infrastructure investment in a manner which is both fair and sufficiently timely to ensure that local communities are equipped with the infrastructure that they need.

Next, there is a need to boost the tram network and improve tram network accessibility in growing areas such as Melbourne’s north-west and south-east. The plan recommends a redesign of tram routes along with the reservation of land for future tram depots to boost capacity in fast growing inner Melbourne areas. Tram connections and extension should also be funded to inner urban renewal precincts such as Fishermans Bend and Arden as well as to the former defence site at Maribyrnong if required. To improve accessibility for elderly and disabled, it calls for a new accessible public transport action plan along with funding for transport accessibility upgrades including priority tram stops.

Finally, there is a focus on how pricing and other signals can be exploited to promote better use of existing infrastructure. This includes changing how roads and public transport are paid for and funded.

As well as transport, the plan talks of a need to upgrade social infrastructure in areas of growing populations.

Here, Infrastructure Victoria calls for a commitment to renew at least half of all public housing properties by 2031, upgrading of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and completion of plans to rebuild and upgrade the Austin and Alfred Hospitals, a new fund to upgrade public buildings to meet contemporary accessibility standards and delivery of very low income housing through mandatory inclusionary zoning in places which are rezoned for more intensive use.

It calls for feedback on issues such as:

  • The most suitable balance between governments publishing long-term infrastructure plans but then managing community expectations about their delivery, timing and content to ensure that people can understand what governments are planning whilst maintaining flexibility for these plans to be altered as circumstances change
  • A fair and efficient model for infrastructure contributions (see above)
  • Sentiments surrounding ideas of reallocating road space away from car parking to either aid the flow of traffic or for public transport, open space of cycling.

Third, the strategy seeks to ensure that infrastructure is harnessed to maximise productivity and economic output.

Here, it calls for both construction of new road and rail lines as well as keeping options open for future transport projects.

On new infrastructure, it calls for reshaping the bus network in outer suburbs, connecting employment and innovation precincts through improved bus services – including delivery of premium bus services which offer faster travel and greater frequency, a fifteen year program to upgrade suburban train corridors, reconfiguration of the city loop to allow for more cross-city train services (after Melbourne Metro opens) and completion of the business case for Melbourne Metro 2.

On keeping options open, it calls for protecting of land for a potential Melbourne Metro 2 along with preservation of the option for a new cross-city motorway linking the Eastern Freeway and CityLink and a plan to purchase land necessary for rail corridors and stations to expand rail services in growth areas. It also calls for premium bus services toward Clyde, Wollert and the Mornington Peninsula along with business cases to improve the Melton, Wallen and Wyndham Vale corridors and a feasibility study for a public transport corridor toward Wollert.

The strategy also looks at ensuring that infrastructure delivery in growth areas is being monitored and delivered in a timely manner. It calls for the empowering of a suitable government body to monitor infrastructure delivery across both growth areas and urban renewal precincts within two years along with the five-year development of business cases for growth areas and urban renewal precincts which consider the timing, sequencing and funding of necessary infrastructure.

Another priority involves better tree canopy in growth areas. Here, the plan suggests a target of 30 percent tree canopy coverage in new growth areas by mandating coverage during precinct development. It also calls or funding of state agencies and local governments to plant, replace and maintain canopy trees.

Tree canopy is important, Infrastructure Victoria says, to improve amenity, use of active transport and reduce cooling demand on hot days through greater shading.

Finally, the plan includes measures to align social infrastructure with better service delivery. It calls for a ten-year target to deliver 4.5 social housing dwellings for every 100 household by 2031, a 30-year program to building new hospital capacity especially in Melbourne’s northern and western growth areas, a dedicated infrastructure fund to support mental health provision and the delivery of ta long-term plan for corrections and youth justice infrastructure by 2023.

To improve outcomes and empowerment for indigenous Australians, it calls for a co-design process to guide investment in aboriginal community-controlled infrastructure.

Topics on which feedback is being sought include:

  • How to encourage greater use of bus transport (as things stand, many routes are under-utilised.
  • The best model through which to monitor the speed of local infrastructure delivery in high-growth areas.
  • The most practical ways to increase tree canopy in areas of low coverage throughout Melbourne.
  • The suitability of the social housing target.

Finally, there is a need to develop regional Victoria to both build on opportunities and address areas of disadvantage.

One priority is to improve digital connectivity and access to digital services.

Here, the plan calls for ongoing investment to improve regional connectivity including further investment following the rollout of the Digital Futures Now Initiative, development of more resilient telecommunications infrastructure with greater redundancy and back-up power supply, funding rural and regional libraries to improve internet access and retrofitting or better using selected rural school infrastructure to deliver specialist and allied telehealth services.

Another priority is to secure funding for long-term maintenance of both road and rail assets. Here, the strategy calls for the creation of a hierarchy for various types of road, rail and bridge assets which specifies levels of services which are expected for each asset type. Following this, it calls for an ongoing program of funding to maintain assets to meet their agreed service levels – with allocations to be prioritised on safety, emission reduction and productivity considerations.

Next, the plan hopes to promote growth opportunities through infrastructure which supports agriculture and tourism. Here, it calls for creation of tourism strategies based around nature and indigenous culture to help guide and prioritise future investment along with attraction of greater investment through allowing more national parks to great leases of up to 49 years for infrastructure proposals which meet specific criteria.

On these matters, Infrastructure Victoria is seeking feedback about:

  • A suitable hierarchy of assets as referred to above along with the levels of service to which maintenance efforts should be expected to deliver for each type of asset within the hierarchy.
  • Opportunities for tourism related infrastructure
  • Views from regional community members about priorities for local transport needs.

Spear stresses the importance of feedback.

“Consultation and engagement is part of Infrastructure Victoria’s DNA,” he said.

“We think it is very important for both the quality of the final strategy which is delivered to the Parliament and also to continue to drive some degree of consensus around what the priorities are in infrastructure investment and policy change in Victoria.

“The more people who have made their input into it, the more your fingerprints that are on the strategy, the stronger and more compelling it (the strategy) will be.”