Strategy the key for future infrastructure

25/03/2009 - 22:00

WESTERN Australia's leading business groups agree that the state requires a solid infrastructure strategy in order to correctly prioritise the state's key projects.

Strategy the key for future infrastructure

WESTERN Australia's leading business groups agree that the state requires a solid infrastructure strategy in order to correctly prioritise the state's key projects.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia believes planning for growth should be a key priority.

CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith has called on the state government to focus on the future of the state.

"We must have a vision for the state which takes into consideration the key elements of people, energy and water," Mr Howard-Smith said.

"A key restraint on the growth of the resources sector and the broader state economy is the lack of planning and investment in much needed hard and soft infrastructure."

The CME believes hard infrastructure such as ports, railways and roads are critical, while soft infrastructure such as community services and lifestyle attractions must also be a focus.

It's a sentiment echoed by the state's leading business lobby group, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia.

"In 2005, the previous state government announced that it would be developing a State Infrastructure Strategy. While CCI welcomed this announcement, and supported the proposed framework for assessing WA's future infrastructure needs, it was disappointed that the final report was never released, particularly at a time when increasingly critical social and economic infrastructure needs were emerging," CCI said in its pre-budget submission.

To date the State Infrastructure Strategy has not been released by the Barnett government, and it's not clear if it will ever see the light of day.

CCI industry policy executive director Trevor Lovelle doesn't know where the strategy is or who has it.

"They're the questions we've been asking," Mr Lovelle told WA Business News.

"I hope it's being given or has been given due consideration by government right now and (hopefully) it's not far off being released.

''It set about depoliticising the prioritisation of infrastructure projects and that's why we think it's so important it's released."

Mr Lovelle is adamant about the type of projects that should be championed by the government, and in his opinion they are long overdue.

"Infrastructure spending would be best put towards wealth creating or generating type projects," Mr Lovelle said.

"I guess what's exacerbated the situation has been the speed of growth, certainly of population in recent years, driven by the resources boom that's put more pressure on the existing infrastructure and heighted the need for these things to be fixed up quickly.

"The suitability of the infrastructure has been highlighted through the increased demand for use of that particular piece of infrastructure."

In its pre-budget submission, CCI highlighted its support for the government's infrastructure priorities identified in its recent submission to the National Infrastructure Audit, including: the Ord Stage 2 project; common use infrastructure for Oakajee Port; the Northbridge Link; Pilbara Housing and Indigenous Essential Services; and transport links around Perth Airport.

Among the priorities outlined by Mr Lovelle, there seems to be a number of similarities to those outlined in the previous year's pre-budget submission.

"I guess it's not surprising, these things can take some time to get up but they will be constantly called for as long as they are not addressed," he said.

"The danger is that you do miss market opportunities.

"We've got a situation where there are these opportunities that make these projects viable and necessary and those conditions don't exist forever so it is important that they are acted upon expediently."

Other priorities yet to be addressed by the government from last year include the availability of broadband in metropolitan and regional areas, the Bunbury outer ring road and general upgrades to the Perth Airport.

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