The election of a majority Labor government in New South Wales ended the past 12 years of Coalition Government and will lead to a shift in the State’s infrastructure priorities.
So, to prioritise maintaining the state’s valued AAA credit rating, or to retain the current infrastructure project pipeline? Which way has the Minns Labor government indicated it will go?
In its Infrastructure “Red Book”, published on Monday, the new government has made its intentions clear and has indicated how it plans to deliver on its election promises in relation to infrastructure.
NSW’s infrastructure priorities
Following-up on several election promises in relation to the energy and infrastructure sector, publicly-owned assets and corporations will remain government owned and the ongoing cost of living crisis will be addressed through toll and electricity bill relief packages. In return, the Beaches Link project has been shelved and the Great Western Highway Upgrade has been deferred for a period.
Highlights of the new NSW Government’s priorities are set out below.
A significant portion of the Government’s pledges throughout the election campaign focused on increasing, maintaining and enshrining public ownership of key infrastructure assets and corporations.
Labor’s plans include:
- introducing legislation to keep a number of Government-owned corporations in public ownership (e.g., Water NSW, Endeavour Energy, Ausgrid, Essential Energy, Sydney Trains, Port Authority of NSW);
- enshrining public ownership of Sydney Water and Hunter Water in the State Constitution;
- maintaining ownership of the Sydney Harbour crossings and Western Harbour Tunnel; and
- ceasing asset recycling.
Ruling out asset recycling has attracted some industry criticism as it had formed a core pillar of the NSW Government’s success over recent decades and provided a rich source of capital to deliver the public infrastructure pipeline.
In addition to prioritising public ownership, the incoming Government plans to:
- establish a new Energy Security Corporation (ESC) to build and own community battery assets and medium- and long-duration storage for pumped hydro, community batteries, and other commercially viable technologies which provide dispatchable grid stability;
- legislate the State’s existing decarbonisation targets of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions on 2005 levels by 2030;
- establish a Net Zero Commission (NZC) to develop, monitor and review a plan to net zero by 2050; and
- continue to establish Renewable Energy Zones (REZ).
The incoming Government plans to cancel a number of projects including the $670 million Warragamba Dam Raising project and the new Dungowan Dam Replacement project, and instead commit to:
- lower the maximum capacity of the Warragamba Dam’s storage and provide additional drinking water capacity to facilitate the lost capacity; and
- deliver the Dungowan Dam Stage One pipeline.
Although there was bi-partisan support for a majority of the major transport infrastructure projects, Labor’s commitments are as follows:
- establish and continue a number of toll relief programs including the Tradie and Truck Toll Relief, Toll Relief Rebate scheme, M5 cashback scheme;
- maintain public ownership of the Sydney Harbour crossings where the revenue is utilised as toll relief; and
- maintain public ownership of the proposed Western Harbour Tunnel where the revenue is invested in health, education, public transport and road projects.
- cease the proposed Beaches Link project;
- review and defer funding for the Great Western Highway Upgrade tunnelling projects for two years;
- three-year $1.1 billion package of road upgrades across Sydney and regional NSW, including $560 million for road infrastructure in Sydney’s North West including on the M7 Motorway, Westlink M7, Garfield Road East; and
- $670 million package in the Emergency Road Repair Fund for regional road upgrades; and
- two-year $200 million package for the Western Sydney Flood Resilience Plan to identify, plan, and commence work on critical evacuation roads and bridges across Western Sydney.
- additional $200 million allocated to the Paramatta Light Rail Stage Two project for planning and procurement, bringing the project’s total reserved funding for planning and procurement to $802 million;
- progress business cases for two new Sydney Metro lines (Western Sydney Airport to Leppington and Glenfield; and Bradfield to Macarthur) with $155 million in funding;
- locally source manufacturing of the Tangara replacement fleet, with procurement processes beginning in its first term of Government, and the Millennium fleet; and
- $300 million of funding to Transport Access Program to ensure a number of train stations undergo upgrades to increase accessibility and safety.
- manufacture 84 zero emissions buses in Western Sydney to run on three rapid bus routes and four local bus services, intended to service the Western Sydney Airport by 2026;
- three-year $305 million package to ensure that services can commence by 2026 when the Western Sydney Airport opens; and
- expand the number of bus routes.
A number of construction industry reforms have been proposed, including the establishment of the NSW Building Commission which will be tasked with licensing and regulation matters.
A number of health, education and housing infrastructure commitments formed part of Labor’s election campaign. And while not part of the election campaign proper, the Labor Government has now made a number of commitments addressed at housing affordability and stock.
- complete the currently planned Rouse Hill Hospital with a further $700 million in funding;
- expand Canterbury Hospital with a three-year $225 million package and Blacktown and Mt Druitt Hospitals with $150 million in funding; and
- upgrade Fairfield Hospital with a three-year $115 package.
- deliver 100 public pre-schools co-located within public primary schools in its first term using the outgoing Government’s allocation of $3.8 billion for early childhood initiatives; and
- deliver new public schools under the Growth Areas Schools Plan with $176 million in funding.
- introduce a mandatory requirement that 30 per cent of all homes be built on surplus Government land to be social, affordable or universal housing;
- abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers for homes worth up to $800,000; and
- offer a concessional stamp duty rate will be offered to those buying properties up to $1 million.