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Federal budget supportive of nation building agenda for Australian cities

Matt Coetzee

Matt Coetzee says the 2017-2018 Australian Federal Budget reaffirms Government’s commitment to several large infrastructure projects

16 May 2017 - According to Matt Coetzee, Aurecon’s Global Leader, Planning and Environment, the 2017-2018 Australian Federal Budget reaffirms Government’s commitment to several large infrastructure projects, most focused on improving the efficiency of our cities.

“In a highly urbanised country such as Australia, getting cities right is critical to our future. Having a well thought through cities strategy, as we now have in the National Cities Agenda, as well as authority to make the necessary decisions, which will hopefully result from the strategy residing in Prime Minister and Cabinet Portfolio, is a huge step in the right direction,” says Coetzee.

“The Western Sydney Airport should be viewed in this context. However, it should be seen as just one piece in the puzzle of Western Sydney and indeed Greater Sydney’s development. We are encouraged therefore that the budget also suggests a possible feasibility study and business case for a high-speed rail to Western Sydney, as well as funding AUD23.5M over four years for a large City Deals programme. The nature and focus of this programme was not clear, however, it will likely support integrated infrastructure development and delivery, drive job creation and accelerated housing supply.”

Australia exists in an undeniably complex governance environment. The City Deals programme is based on a UK concept and has previously been trialed in Townsville and Launceston, by Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor. At its core, is an incentive programme to support all levels of Government and the private sector to work together to deliver complex development programmes. If the successes in other locales are an indication, it has the potential to address the governance challenges and support sound decision-making, which is so critical in delivering the complex needs of urban citizens.

“It’s exciting to see Government scaling up the application of the City Deals for Western Sydney, which is a far more complex, integrated development than we have seen in Launceston and Townsville – there is no doubt it will test the approach,” says Coetzee.

“By integrating decision making across infrastructure assets and across all three levels of Government and the private sector, it will bring consistency in decision making, clarity for investors, help avoid bureaucratic blockages and provide more opportunity to integrate community stakeholders into the planning and development process. Any attempt to do this deserves support,” he adds.

Coetzee went on to say: “The 2017 Budget also contains a number of measures aimed at improving the rail network, allocating some AUD8.4B to Inland Rail and AUD10B to a National Rail Network and to at least three fast rail projects. Again, this investment should be viewed against a backdrop of cities and a nation building agenda. We face a very real challenge of integrating rail into cities, and the potential exists to use a City Deals type approach to drive this forward.”

Coetzee added: “Hand in hand with this investment in rail, is a proposed comprehensive freight rail strategy. The potential for a freight strategy to support national economic growth through the efficient movement of freight is absolutely worth investigating.”

Read a blog post around that changing nature of city planning by Matt Coetzee here: Cities are being disrupted, who will win?

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