Infrastructure for the Future

Now is the time to invest in the state’s future – we need to develop and deliver the infrastructure for the next half century – but someone has to pay for it… that’s usually the tax payer at the end of the day so lets make sure we do it right.

With that in mind I attended the CEDA Inventing the Future – Shaping WA 2010 – 2050 Infrastructure and Capital Requirements event on Wednesday – another great event focusing on the importance of capital and finance in the delivery of the infrastructure required for the future development of the state.

The interesting discussion I had before the event start was with Wayne Zekulich – Executive Vice President of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia – with the economy here in WA (and Australia) in a generally strong position he did not see the reason for projects not commencing being a matter of finance – “…a good project should always be able to get finance…”.  That said there is a desperate need to investment in upgrading, improving, and constructing the infrastructure that we will need to meet the expected 500,000 more people into Perth alone by 2031.

Putting that in context the recent Engineers Australia Infrastructure Report Card on WA has highlighted that we are somewhat of an ‘average student’ at this stage, however considerable investment needs to be made now to ensure we are equipped to deal with an expanding population (and economy hopefully!).  One key point from their report was:

“…sustaining the momentum will not happen without more integrated, long-term planning and commitment to funding of infrastructure to underpin the State’s future.”

This was reiterated by a prominent member of the audience who was put somewhat on the spot – John Langoulant (yes John you are right there is no such thing as a free lunch!).  What successive governments from both sides of politics have failed to do is to develop long term strategic plans for the potential growth and expansion of the population of the state.  This goes beyond the need for strategic land use plans and directions (i.e. like Directions 2031 which is a good start), and onto the need for coordinated planning for infrastructure across all government departments and the utilities.  This requires the breaking down of some silos and taking a new approach to the problem and I don’t believe that it is an easy thing to do – if it was it should have already been done.

So our next challenge is to place the onus on the current government to improve the coordination of these things through the infrastructure Coordinating Committee.

Tom

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