Following months of industry consultation, the Queensland Government has now released the final version of its State Infrastructure Plan (SIP). This is the first plan of its kind in several years. If it remains fiscally responsible, its breadth and depth are to be welcomed.
The SIP follows on from the Queensland Government’s commitment to investing $59.35 million in catalyst infrastructure (such as roads and transport) and comes just weeks after Infrastructure Australia published the first ever 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan.
The SIP is a living document intended to be updated yearly. In its current form, the SIP puts into place a $35 billion pipeline for major infrastructure projects across a number of industries over the next four years, with further projects envisaged over the medium to long term (a 15-year time frame is indicated). The aim of the SIP is to provide confidence and certainty to business, industry and the community, and to provide opportunities for investors in the private sector to develop innovative infrastructure solutions.
A central plank of the SIP is the State Government’s announcement of the launch of a new Queensland Infrastructure Fund, with a promised injection of $500 million for investment in priority infrastructure projects across Queensland. The State Government will also set up an Infrastructure Portfolio Office (IPO) to plan and coordinate infrastructure, and integrate the links between economic, regional and infrastructure planning.
As encouraging as this is, the SIP and how it will be implemented by the IPO will require further consultation and planning. Further, the SIP implicitly recognizes that governments of all levels cannot fund infrastructure projects on the scale that Queensland needs, and opens up opportunities and challenges for innovative private sector financing and involvement.
Innovation is a key theme of the Plan, both in terms of the projects that might be undertaken and the way in which they might be managed, financed and funded.
The Plan identifies a strong preference for private investors to put forward and develop innovative market-led proposals. A revamped, active framework has been established to encourage market-led proposals to support this.
Value capture and availability-based public private partnerships are also discussed as being part of the solution to Queensland’s infrastructure challenge, but the innovation sought goes much further than this. The real issue is for private sector investors to identify projects and funding and financing solutions that might give the economy the infrastructure it needs to grow while still allowing the private sector a reasonable return on its investment.
Projects outlined in the SIP include more than just traditional bricks and mortar projects. Squeezing more out of existing infrastructure through better maintenance or incremental improvements in operations is a recurrent theme, as is the potential benefit to be derived from digitalisation.
The Federal government’s focus on Northern Australia is also reflected, with opportunities arising especially in the water, ports, energy (especially solar) and transport sectors.
The success of the SIP will be measured through its implementation, especially to the extent that its focus on innovation results in practical and profitable outcomes. This “new” model for dealing with Queensland’s infrastructure challenge may only produce the benefits sought if a new mindset is applied across all governments and at all levels within government.
While it is yet to be seen how the Local, State and Federal Governments will work together to invest in and implement these developments, the release of the SIP is a positive step towards supporting the infrastructure industry and promoting economic growth for a sustainable future in Queensland.
Authors: Suzy Cairney, Carl Hinze & Sarah Shirley
Troy Lewis, Partner & National Head of Construction and Infrastructure
T: +61 7 3135 0614
Stephen Burton, Partner
T: +61 7 3135 0604
Suzy Cairney, Partner
T: T: +61 7 3135 0684
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