25/06/2008 - 22:00

State infrastructure strategy finalised

25/06/2008 - 22:00

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More than two-and-a-half years after kicking off the process, the state government has finally been handed a final report on its infrastructure strategy.

State infrastructure strategy finalised
Image: Tim van Bronswijk

More than two-and-a-half years after kicking off the process, the state government has finally been handed a final report on its infrastructure strategy.

The chairman of the state infrastructure strategy industry reference group, former Clough chief executive Brian Hewitt, handed the final report to deputy premier Eric Ripper last week, who will take it to cabinet shortly.

The document outlines a 20-year plan for managing Western Australia's infrastructure, with a view to providing more transparency and clarity.

Preparation of the strategy has been welcomed by business groups, though they have been frustrated by the long time involved and are reserving judgement on whether it will actually improve infrastructure planning.

The WA initiative brings the state into line with other jurisdictions, most notably Queensland.

The south-east Queensland infrastructure plan was first released in 2005 and is updated annually.

It currently lists 290 projects underway and identifies more than $107 billion worth of investment over the next 18 years, in areas like transport, water, energy, communication technology, schools and hospitals.

Another Queensland initiative, advocated by a recent Public Accounts Committee report on WA infrastructure, was the establishment of an Office of the Coordinator General to improve coordination of infrastructure planning.

Queensland's Coordinator General has the power to compel approvals from state government agencies.

The report also praised the success of Infrastructure Canada, which coordinates all levels of government.

The WA government has budgeted to spend a record $25.1 billion on infrastructure over the four years to 2010-11.

Added to this is private sector infrastructure investment, which could exceed $10 billion over the next few years.

This includes new railways and port facilities in the Pilbara, the planned Oakajee port and associated rail links in the Mid West, and new power stations.

Two topical issues are likely to inform debate over the strategy: the adequacy of the state's energy infrastructure, including its ability to withstand shocks, and control of private iron ore railways in the Pilbara.

Another recurring issue, at a time of skilled labour shortages and rising costs, is the ability of the state government to deliver the infrastructure needed to sustain WA's rapid economic growth.

The Carpenter government recently established the Office of Strategic Projects to tackle this issue.

With a four-year budget of $18 million, the office will be responsible for up to a dozen projects with a high level of complexity or value.

WA Liberal leader Troy Buswell believes the government should expand the use of private public partnerships to deliver greater value-for-money.

The state initiatives follow the establishment earlier this year of Infrastructure Australia, which plans to audit the nation's infrastructure and advise on development priorities.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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