IPART seeks to reduce regulatory burden on NSW councils…
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is seeking feedback on 49 recommendations to reduce the regulatory burdens that the NSW Government imposes on local government contained in a just-released draft report. The recommendations cover a range of council operations but in a media release the IPART Chair Dr Peter Boxall said the areas of planning and water will bring the greatest improvements in council efficiency.
“Approximately 67 Acts administered by 27 different State agencies impose obligations on councils to prepare plans, provide information or comply with other requirements in implementing these Acts,” Dr Boxall said.
“While many regulatory obligations are necessary, all come at a cost. Our goal is to identify those that are inefficient, unnecessary or excessive, and recommend ways to remove or reduce these burdens on councils.”
IPART’s draft report calls on the State Government to work as a partner with local government, for example by considering costs to councils when giving them additional responsibilities, taking a whole-of-government approach and by adopting risk-based approaches.
A public hearing will be held on 8 February and submissions on the draft report will close on 19 February 2016.
… while Vic councils urged to be proactive in the face of a NSW-style rate cap
The CEO of Victorian branch of Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA VIC) David Hallett has said that councils “must take steps” to ensure that the introduction of local government rate capping by the state government “does not erode their levels of service”.
Mr Hallett noted that the figure of 2.5% announced in December by the Victorian Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins under the “Fair Go Rates System” was less than anticipated, given the Essential Services Commission (ESC) had proposed a cap of 3.05%. It is also considerably lower than the annual rate rise across the state’s 79 councils over the past decade cited by the Minister of 6%
Mr Hallett said councils should avoid reducing service provision and instead “embrace the change and do what you can with lesser resources – to continue to provide your communities with what they expect”, though he acknowledged that the rapidly-growing councils on Melbourne’s fringe would be hardest hit.
Among the strategies Mr Hallett suggested were consulting with the community to determine their priorities, regionalising aspects of service provision such as libraries and applying for a higher cap. These issues will be central to the IPWEA VIC conference to be held in April.
NSW Government Architect makes strategic move
The strategic arm of the Government Architect’s Office has transferred to the Department of Planning and Environment “to work closely on preserving and enhancing the State’s global status”, according to a media release from Secretary Carolyn McNally.
“This transfer will help make us a Department who leads in strategic planning, and provides best practice for planning and design for NSW, guided by a Department of experts,” Ms McNally said.
The NSW Government Architect, Peter Poulet will retain his role as an “independent thought leader”.
“It makes sense that my office’s expertise is used to help plan well-designed communities by working with the Department,” Mr Poulet said.
Federal Government seeks to reduce the sizzle as the heat is turned up on Western Sydney
Federal Environment Minister and Acting Cities Minister Greg Hunt is reported to have addressed the Sydney Business Chamber, outlining a plan to address the “heat island” effect experienced in cities.
The announcement came days after the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) President Clr Tony Hadchiti cited research by the Office of Environment and Heritage that greenfield residential developments in Western Sydney will “experience between five and 10 additional hot days by 2030″ as a result of climate change and increasing urbanisation.
Cllr Tony Hadchiti said “When the hot summer sun beats directly onto urban surfaces such as roads, footpaths and roofs they heat up. These materials absorb and hold heat well past the heat of the day, raising temperatures in our towns.
“Urban heat is an issue for all cities, but Western Sydney’s unique geography and lack of sea-breeze means the region is already much hotter than its eastern counterparts.”
Clr Hadchiti urged “state planning authorities to work with councils to develop a Western Sydney urban heat strategy to inform and support local planning controls”.
In the speech to the Chamber (which is not yet publicly available), Minister Hunt agreed that the heat island effect was a key issue, placing “very young and very old at high risk” and contributing to a number of deaths. The media reports suggest the Minister indicated that the federal government wanted to increase tree cover in big cities and outlined a plan to work with cities to set goals for each decade to 2050 to increase “urban canopies”, or overall tree coverage.
NSW Planning seeks feedback on Australian Technology Park Plans
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is seeking community input on a proposal to redevelop the Australian Technology Park in Eveleigh. The plans which are on exhibition until 29 February 2016 mainly involve the construction of three mixed use buildings ranging from four to nine storeys in height for a range of retail, commercial, community space and other use which will be placed in the current car park area.
Claims that Australia needs to explore innovative infrastructure funding…
An opinion piece on the Sourecable website by Andrew Heaton claims that Australia needs to do more in adopting innovative strategies to fund major urban renewal projects, citing the need to fund $50 billion of infrastructure in Victoria alone over the next ten years and an annual local government shortfall in infrastructure investment in NSW of $447 million.
The article cites research conducted by Prof. Ed Blakely from the University of Sydney and Joe Langley from AECOM identifies a number of opportunities such as easing restrictions on domestic superannuation funds to allow them to invest in local infrastructure and capturing the uplift in property values resulting from new infrastructure.
Blakely also stressed the importance of looking beyond initial cost to focus on the long-term economic value of infrastructure projects, citing the benefits that . resulted from Phoenix’s decision to invest in light rail and the subsequent urban renewal.
These comments were echoed in a speech by Federal Environment Minister and Acting Cities Minister Greg Hunt is reported to have made to the Sydney Business Chamber on urban heat island issues (see earlier item) in which he claimed that the government could not fund the all infrastructure required to keep up with urban growth. The Minister said he was considering a range of flexible financing arrangements, including value capture and the location of jobs in residential areas to reduce commuting times.
… while SA begins $2.5bn infrastructure spend
The South Australian Government has announced that construction will begin this year on almost $2.5 billion of major infrastructure projects in the state, “creating thousands of jobs”.
Combined with continuing projects such as the Royal Adelaide Hospital and the Torrens Road to River Torrens upgrade this means that more than $6 billion of major infrastructure projects are underway or about to start. The biggest projects will be the $985 million Northern Connector due to start in May, the $620 million Darlington Upgrade and the $160 million O-Bahn tunnel which are also due to start early in 2016.
Prof. Newman: massive road spending is based on outdated traffic modelling
Sustainability expert Prof Peter Newman has claimed in a recent article that traffic modelling is as out of touch with reality as the modelling which led to the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery, attacking a recent study by the Bureau of Transport Industry and Resource Economics which modelled future traffic trends and the resulting impacts on road congestion.
Prof. Newman’s article criticises two specific aspects of the study. The first is that the high-growth scenario it used projected increasing car use despite evidence that “peak car” usage occurred in 2003-2004 and has been declining since. The second is that it ignored the “Marchetti travel time budget” which states that average commuting time of just over an hour has been found to apply universally across all cities.
“If people find it hard to live with so much time ‘wasted’, they move to somewhere more within their travel time budget…. Cities adjust; they don’t keep expanding travel time”, Prof. Newman states. “It is possible to understand the global peak car phenomenon in terms of cities hitting the Marchetti wall.”
Newman notes that over the past 30 years rail lines have become relatively more “travel-time-efficient than traffic arteries”, leading to people moving back to areas well-served by public transport as well as inner cities, resulting in declining car use. These trends claim Newman were ignored in the study, despite the evidence from London and other cities that if there is good public transport combined with fixed road capacity, traffic volumes remain constant or slightly decline.
Newman claims that the study’s shortcomings are possibly a result of an “Abbott effect” – the decision of the former Prime Minister to invest “$40 billion on urban roads and nothing on urban rail”.
“Such models should be put into the museum and we need to start creating a better sense of where our cities can be going. This report can be easily passed over, but if the thinking behind it stays the impact on our cities will be very damaging,” he concludes.
Prof. Newman’s comments echo some aspects of the criticisms of conventional cost-benefit analysis used for transport infrastrtucture which were made by University of Sydney researcher Chris Standen (see TSW1 for discussion).
NSW IPART faces backlash over Gold Opal proposals
Seniors groups have voiced their opposition to a toughening of the criteria for NSW Opal gold card or an increase in the daily cap, according to recent Fairfax media article.
Under plans proposed by The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) eligibility for the gold pass would be tightened and its daily cap increased from $2.50 to $3.60. The gold card would effectively be limited to people receiving pension; as a result the cost to self-funded retirees would more than triple to $9.00 or the proposed cost of the standard concession fare.
The article observes that as there are more than 1.4 million people in NSW with seniors cards it is “politically risky for the government to embark on significant changes to the travel entitlements”. The Council on the Ageing, the NSW Council of Social Services and other groups have opposed the changes because of their potential to increase isolation and to encourage older people to drive instead of taking public transport.
Transport: Sydney Metro
Cracks affect “skytrain” section of Metro construction
Transport for NSW has confirmed after inquiries from Fairfax media that two of 24 concrete spans erected for the “Skytrain” section of the northwest section of Sydney’s metro currently under construction may need to be pulled down after cracks were detected.
The spans have an average length of almost 40 metres and are made up of pre-cast concrete segments locked together with steel cords. The problem was discovered less than a week after Premier Mike Baird and Transport Minister Andrew Constance announced the early and under budget completion of tunnelling for the metro (as reported in TSW 4).
In a statement emailed to Fairfax, Sydney Metro acting program director Tom Gellibrand said none of the 24 spans erected so far had been disassembled but, “following close inspections, there are two spans where some cracking has occurred”.
“The rectification of the cracking may result in these two spans being replaced,” he said. “This is a straightforward construction process.”
The Greens transport spokeswoman, Mehreen Faruqi, who has a doctorate in engineering, said however that the problems were “hallmarks of an infrastructure program where the public sector has been hollowed out of engineering expertise, and is unable to effectively oversee and supervise project delivery”.
Transport: Light Rail
Soaring Sydney light rail demand leads to extra trams – but raises concerns over capacity on new line
According to a media report a 60% increase in passenger numbers on Sydney’s inner-west light rail line to 6.1 million in the last financial year has prompted NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance to announce that an extra 90 services a week will be provided on the line.
The figures, which were released late last year by the NSW Audit Office, represent the first full year of operation since the opening of the 5.6 kilometre extension of the line to Dulwich Hill. In response to the increasing demand the Minister announced that there will be an additional 18 services on weekdays, taking the total to 215 daily. Most of these will be in peak hour, taking service frequencies from a tram every ten minutes to one every eight minutes. Mr Constance claimed the additional services would carry an extra 3,700 passengers.
The same article indicates that the University of NSW has raised concerns regarding the capacity of the CBD and southeast line currently under construction. It claims that the tram stops planned to service its campus will not be large enough to cope. This is based on forecasts that by 2021 its students and staff provide around 5,300 passengers, using up to 76% of the line’s capacity on both the Randwick and Kingsford branches.
Sydney Bays Precinct – plans for trams, parks and bridges new and old
A range of ideas from within government and the wider community have been proposed for the rejuvenation of the Bays Precinct, a 95-hectare area of government land on the waterfront to the west of Sydney’s CBD, including Blackwattle, Rozelle and White Bays.
Fairfax Media reported that it had obtained a document under FoI laws prepared by Transport for NSW outlining the possibility of reinstating the Glebe Island swing bridge as a “green bridge” linking the disused White Bay Power Station which lies at the heart of the project with the CBD.
The document suggests a “green Travel Plan” for the precinct which would involve travel demand reduction and alternatives to car use. In addition it discusses extending the existing light rail line to connect to the power station, suggesting two options – a loop via the power station and the proposed green bridge between the stops at Rozelle Bay and John Street Square, or a simple spur line to the station from the Rozelle Bay stop.
“With many people expected to travel between the White Bay Power Station and Sydney CBD via Pyrmont a repurposed Glebe Island Bridge – disused since 1995 – could be a major stimulus to walking and cycling. This would allow the adaptive reuse of a state heritage-listed asset”, the document notes. In addition it discusses improved bus services and even the possibility of a White Bay metro station located in the metro corridor that has been preserved under the site.
In addition Urban Growth NSW has published over 200 submissions received in response to its “Call for Great Ideas” from the community for the precinct. These proposed a wide range of strategies and uses for the area including light rail options similar to those identified by Transport for NSW. As reported by Fairfax however, one response from Aecom goes much further in proposing that Anzac Bridge be turned into the “Anzac Bridge Park”.
“With a minor adjustment to the current freeway proposals, an underground connection could tie the Westconnex, Cross City Tunnel, third harbour tunnel, Harbour Bridge and the M5 freeways together freeing up the ANZAC bridge for other uses”, the proposal claims.
If constructed the submission states “the ANZAC Bridge Park will connect the bays precincts and the inner west communities with a new linear active transport and open space corridor”.
Big plans for ACT Northbourne light rail corridor
The ACT Government has announced that it is preparing an urban renewal strategy that will look at the future of the City Centre and its premier gateway, Northbourne Avenue, which will be the corridor for Canberra’s planned light rail line.
The City and Gateway Urban Renewal Strategy will be “an integrated and community supported vision for the corridor that will guide future development as community needs and market demands change over time”, the government said, recognising that the corridor “is a unique, vibrant and diverse part of Canberra that is well placed to accommodate growth while maintaining a strong sense of community”.
The urban renewal strategy is a key implementation initiative of the City Plan. According to the discussion paper released as part of the consultation process, “this urban renewal strategy will recognise the national significance of the corridor. It will capitalise on the innovative redevelopment and investment opportunities that light rail offers to support urban renewal including delivery of quality public places, integrating high quality public transport and active travel”.
The strategy also proposes “a series of urban villages” to be based on the light rail stations to be constructed along the corridor. These will be connected to existing communities by “enhanced east-west connections to and from Northbourne Avenue”.
Brisbane Lord Mayoral candidate investigates light rail
The Brisbane Labor Lord Mayoral Candidate, Rod Harding has announced that next month he will “release his comprehensive plan to tackle Brisbane’s growing traffic congestion problem.”
Mr Harding said that light rail was one of the “many innovative and exciting policy responses his team is considering” to help tackle the city’s congestion and support future growth, though he stressed that no final decision had been made.
“I believe this election will be decided on which candidate has the best plan to tackle congestion now and into the future,” he said, citing the success of the recent light rail projects and extensions in Adelaide, Sydney and the Gold Coast and the plans for a new line in the Act.
V/Line services chaos leads to free tickets
The Victorian Minister for Transport Jacinta Allan has responded to two separate issues which have caused chaos on the state’s regional rail network, leading to extensive service cancellations and replacement of trains by buses.
In her media release the Minister said she had been advised that in relation to one of the issues, excessive wheel wear on V/Line’s Bombardier Vlocity rail cars, “V/Line’s failure to adequately prepare for increased regional services including a failure to plan for additional track-greasing” had led to the problem.
The Minster advised that services would resume as the issues were addressed through additional maintenance and wheel replacement. On the second issue, the ban on Vlocity carriages by Mebourne Metro’s suburban rail network imposed after a V/Line train failed to activate boom gates at a level crossing, she also indicated that the restrictions are being lifted on the Bendigo and Seymour lines.
“This will free up additional non-VLocity carriages to run on the Gippsland corridor, while testing on the VLocity fleet continues to allow the Gippsland line restrictions to be lifted. These restrictions are expected to be lifted by mid-late next week,” the Minister stated
Ms Allan also said that free tickets will be offered in compensation.
“As a small acknowledgement of the frustration recent service disruptions have caused, all travel on V/Line services will be free next week – from Saturday 23 January to Sunday 31 January,” she said.
Bigger Sydney Metro tunnel to suit proposed High Speed Rail ruled out
A Chinese consortium Centurion Group has proposed construction of a 200 kilometre high speed rail (HSR) line from Campbelltown to Newcastle via the Sydney CBD, according to a Yahoo media report.
“Newcastle to Central will be about 40-45 minutes,” Centurion Group chief executive officer Patrick Yu is quoted as saying. The project has an estimated cost of $25 billion but would be financed through value capture via a levy on new developments and a tax on landowners along the route of $75,000 when they sell their properties.
Detail on the company’s website and Facebook page is very limited, but according to the media report the key to the plan is the re-design of the Sydney Metro Harbour tunnel from two six-metre tunnels to a single 16m double-deck tunnel big enough for both metro and HSR services with the difference in cost to be funded out of the project.
This plan has however already been scotched by Transport for NSW which according to the report stated that “bigger tunnels further under ground would defeat the purpose of an express metro”.
A virtual peek at the new Wynyard
NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has invited “customers” to view the renovated Wynyard Station through an app that offers an inside view of the yet to be completed upgrade.
The NovoView app developed by Novo Rail is free to download on Apple or Android devices and provides users with 360-degree views of what the station will look like when it’s finished, “as if they were there in person”.
“This new app, available to download now, will give our customers a taste of the lighter, brighter and cleaner Wynyard Station that will be completed later this year,” Mr Constance said.
The virtual reality technology allows users to select from three panoramas of the completed station, with the option to explore other project information such as a construction photo gallery of the $100 million Wynyard Station upgrade.