The Strategic Week (no. 8, Thursday 11 February 2016) – the week in governance, planning, infrastructure and transport

Governance

Federal opposition calls for Cities Minister replacement

Federal Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Cities and Tourism Anthony Albanese has called on the Prime Minister to appoint a new Minister for Cities to replace Jamie Briggs who resigned recently (see TSW4).

Mr Albanese said that Mr Turnbull should make the appointment quickly “if he is serious about his claim to want to champion the productivity, sustainability and liveability of the nation’s cities”

Mr Albanese called on the PM to place the position in the infrastructure and regional development portfolio, rather than the environment portfolio. He also claimed that Mr Turnbull had “done nothing concrete on urban policy” and that he had failed to reverse former PM Tony Abbott’s refusal to fund major public transport projects.

Mr Albanese concluded that the complexity of urban issues in Australia “requires a Minister for Cities who is placed within the right department and given enough clout to work with other ministers and other levels of government.”

 Criticism of KPMG NSW council merger report continues while LGA calls for single election date

State Greens MP David Shoebridge has accused the NSW government of refusing to release “25 secret reports” on the costs and impacts of proposed local government mergers.

He notes that in response to a FoI application the “Department of Premier and Cabinet have refused access to KPMG’s business case, financial modelling and impact analysis, as well as 20 separate documents authored by KPMG analyzing “he financial impacts of council mergers”.

“An honest government would give the community these documents so they could see for themselves just how much forced amalgamations will cost and put to proof the government’s unsupported claims that they will save money,” Mr Shoebridge said.

“Almost certainly the documents they are hiding, including the business case and 20 KPMG reports on forced mergers, show that ordinary residents will be paying more, and getting less, if these mergers go ahead.”

Meanwhile according to an SMH report the Local Government Association of NSW has urged the state government to hold elections for merging and non-merging councils on the same day, based on the responses to a survey involving 84 mayors.

NSW Premier Mike Baird had earlier indicated that the merger process might mean that the election date for affected councils may have to be moved from September 2016 to March 2017. The Minister for Local Government Paul Toole is quoted as responding to the LGA’s request by stating that non-merging councils should still prepare for an election in September this year.

Planning: Policy/General

Major parties outline urban concerns at Living Cities Workshop

Speakers from federal government, the opposition and the Greens have used the opportunity of the Living Cities Workshop organised by the Australian Institute of Landscape Artists to raise key issues in relation to the development of Australian cities.

The workshop which was held in Parliament House also involved a range of industry representatives developing an Action Plan and Report to the federal environment department to provide input to the Government’s Cities Policy Forum Position Paper and Summit to be released later this year (see also TSW5).

According to a statement about the event, “the Living Cities Alliance announcement will call on key organisations working across all urban planning, infrastructure, utilities and greening sectors to join the alliance to unite in providing a consultative framework to inform Government policy development, and make recommendations on target setting to make our cities greener and more liveable”.

The addresses made by Mr Paul Fletcher and Anthony Albanese are summarised in the next items. Adam Bandt’s presentation was not available at the time of publication.

Paul Fletcher address to the Living Cities Workshop

In addressing the Living Cities Workshop, (see item above) Paul Fletcher, Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects noted that as well as releasing a position paper the government planned to host a National Cities Policy Forum, “bringing together leaders, experts and industry to shape a shared vision for the future of our cities”.

Mr Fletcher justified the Liberal federal government’s recent re-engagement with urban policy-making by noting that “that policies which affect our cities are policies which affect the vast majority of Australians” – given that 89% of Australians live in cities – and that “80 per cent of the dollar value of all goods and services in Australia is produced on just 0.2 per cent of our land mass”, mostly located in cities.

The Minister also noted some of the challenges involved in ensuring that Australian cities “remain liveable, accessible and productive”:

“First, effective long term planning will be critical to shaping our cities so that they deliver the economic growth needed to maintain our quality of life.

“Secondly, we need cities that support the needs of those who live, work and visit them. Smart and successful cities are underpinned by world class digital and physical infrastructure.

“Thirdly, we need sustainable, green cities with improved amenity for a more liveable environment”, Mr Fletcher said.

He then outlined some of the government’s strategies for greening cities, including the recent National Clean Air Agreement, increasing urban canopy coverage and reducing carbon emissions.

Turning to transport infrastructure he stressed its importance in underpinning the global competitiveness of major cities and urban regeneration and discussed some current options to fund major projects including the issuing of bonds and raising rates.

Mr Fletcher conceded that the sheer scale of major transport infrastructure projects “typically require at least some federal government funding if they are to proceed”. He pointed to the government’s “extensive program of infrastructure investment” but also stated that there were limits to its funding capacity. Therefore he said the government was “interested in prompting a discussion about innovative approaches to funding and financing,” including contributions from beneficiaries and value capture mechanisms.

The government also wanted to see “a more rigorous and systematic approach to assessing infrastructure projects” and to encourage “better coordination between land use and transport decisions”, the Minister said, noting that Infrastructure Australia will shortly provide the government with a 15-year Australian Infrastructure Plan. He concluded by stating that “transforming our cities will require strong collaboration across the Commonwealth, with all levels of government and with business”.

Anthony Albanese address to the Living Cities Workshop

The address by Anthony Albanese Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Cities and Tourism to the Living Cities Workshop (see earlier item) also ranged across a number of areas relating to urban policy and noted the way in which urbanisation and in particular the design of cities was shaping people’s lives.

Mr Albanese highlighted Labor’s record in office in doubling the federal government’s roads budget, establishing Infrastructure Australia, the Major Cities Unit and the Urban Policy Forum. He noted in particular that the Labor government’s contribution to public transport funding was greater than “all other governments combined since Federation”. He went on to criticise the Coalition government’s record in dismantling some of these initiatives and then appointing a Minister for Cities “with no Budget, no department and given no job to do.”

The shadow minister praised efforts to green Australian cities, noting that as well as reducing the heat island effect, recent research suggested that greener cities made people happier and healthier and also improved productivity. He suggested that the federal government could have a role to play in “identifying and encouraging best practice, as well as facilitating and investing in its replication where appropriate across the nation.”

Mr Albanese also stressed the importance of good urban design, noting that the proposed airport at Badgerys Creek could provide “the perfect example of how this should work” and urging the incorporation of “green design” into all projects. He also called for the federal government to adopt measures to “encourage Australians to consider greener, healthier ways of getting around” and called for “a co-ordinated response addressing housing affordability, public transport and urban planning, including consideration of greater population densities along established public transport corridors.”

The shadow minister also referred to recent media reports about the threat to Sydney’s food basin from urban sprawl and rising land prices (see next item). He said that the federal government “must take a holistic approach that reflects an understanding of the diverse needs of our cities”, working with council and industry, to” determine the most appropriate response”.

Mr Albanese concluded, “in the face of climate change we must recognise that without sustainable urban design and planning at the core of each project, our cities, and the people living in them, will suffer.”

 … while Sydney’s vegetables threatened by urban sprawl

As noted in the previous item, shadow minister Anthony Albanese referred to a SMH report on the threats to Sydney’s food basin from urban sprawl and rising land prices. This draws on research conducted by the Sydney Food Futures project, which identified some of these threats and in particular the risks to perishable foods which are best grown close to their markets.

The research claims that unless there are changes, “Sydney stands to lose over 90% of its current fresh vegetable production“, with total food production shrinking by 60%. “As a result the report warns that Sydney foodbowl’s capacity to feed the city’s residents could “drop from meeting 20% of food demand down to a mere 6%”.

On the other hand the wide range of future food production scenarios developed in the research demonstrates that the current path of urban sprawl need not be “set in stone”, with “sustainable strategies and innovations that integrate food and other essential services” potentially opening up possibilities for increasing food production in the basin.

The report website notes that “creating a resilient food future for Sydney means our strategic metropolitan planning need to value and better protect agriculture from urban sprawl. Farmers and agri-businesses need viable commercial conditions, a fair price for produce, land security and a social license to operate.”

 Transport: Policy/General/Funding

NSW Transport backs innovation, encourages new apps and trials “click and collect”

NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has announced that he is “calling on the world’s brightest tech minds to find the next big idea that would shake up transport in NSW”.

He said that the government will host “Future Transport” – a 12 month program to “uncover the trends and technologies that will revolutionise the way the government and customers plan, build and use transport”. The program will commence with a two-day summit in April that will bring together “thought leaders, IT specialists, innovators, entrepreneurs, futurists, transport leaders and academics”. An “Industry Ideas and Innovations Lab” will also be held for companies to pitch products and ideas that could “improve transport and the customer experience”.

“This summit will be the perfect platform to ignite innovative, creative and out of the box ideas that will transform transport for the better,” Mr Constance said.

In a development related to the Future Transport initiative the Minister also announced that the makers of two major international public transport apps, Moovit and Transit App, have been given early access to currently restricted transport data. The government plans to make this material more publicly available to developers and innovators, awarding a $1.7 million contract to build a new online Open Data Hub.

Mr Constance noted that over 3 million downloads of real time transport apps have been made to date, along with 90 million requests for timetable data each month and that the new platform will make this even more accessible.

“To start, we will make real time transport data open for everyone to access – but with big developments in areas like Opal data – the possibilities are endless,” he said.

In another Future Transport-related announcement the Minister released details of a trial of a new “click and collect” service that will allow rail users to order groceries online and pick them up from specially designed lockers at a station on their way home.

Mr Constance said Sydney Trains is partnering with Woolworths on the 12-month trial, which is launching at Bondi Junction Station.

“Click & Collect lockers have been installed at Bondi Junction on a trial basis. Customers can order their shopping online from Woolworths on their mobile before 11am and pick them up before they catch the train or bus, or on their way home,” Mr Constance said.

WA government defends lack of applications for federal PT infrastructure funding

The WA Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Western Australia and for Regional Development and Infrastructure Alannah MacTiernan has criticised the WA state government’s failure to apply for federal funding for planned projects such as the MAX light rail and the Forrestfield rail link.

“More than four months after proudly boasting that he would pursue Federal funding for two major Perth rail projects, Premier Colin Barnett is yet to formally request a cent,” Ms MacTiernan said.

According to media reports, the government has denied the accusation, with WA Transport Minister Dean Nalder claiming the Government has submitted detailed proposals for funding the airport rail link project.

“The Forrestfield-Airport link has been with Infrastructure Australia for some time, so it [the criticism] is not correct,” he is quoted as saying. Mr Nalder indicated an updated “priority list” will be forwarded to Canberra but conceded it would not include a proposal for the Max Light Rail project because the government is “still undertaking a full assessment” (see later item).

Transport: Metro

Sydney Metro Waterloo station location finalised

NSW Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Andrew Constance has announced the location of the proposed Sydney Metro station at Waterloo.

The Minister said that the station will be built underground between Botany Road and Cope Street, south of Raglan Street, with discussions now underway with affected landowners and tenants.

“We’ve locked in a station location and we’re getting on with the job of delivering the next stage of Sydney Metro,” Mr Constance said.

Western Sydney metro and high density development proposed…

Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson has proposed the construction of a new metro line between the Sydney CBD and Parramatta. Noting that the cities with the best metro systems all have high densities, he proposed that the new line connect the metro station already planned for Barangaroo with four potential redevelopment sites along the east-west route which could support significant redevelopment.

Expanding on the proposal in the Sydney Morning Herald he suggested that Sydney follow the example of cities like London, Paris and New York and develop a “Central metro line” serving locations such as the Bays Precinct, Kings Bay, Olympic Park and Clyde.

Chris Johnson's proposed Central Metro Line (source: Chris Johnson/SMH)

Chris Johnson’s proposed Central Metro Line (source: Chris Johnson/SMH)

“Some form of special area levy, captured through rates and spread across the new centres, as proposed by the Committee for Sydney, could contribute funds towards the new metro infrastructure”, Mr Johnson said.

The proposal received a mixed reaction with urban designer Benjamin Driver supporting the metro proposal but claiming that 60-storey buildings along this corridor would be “difficult to justify”, noting that out of the cities nominated by Mr Johnson as examples only parts of New York had buildings this high.

… along with high-speed metro to planned Western Sydney airport

Following hard on the heels of the proposal for a Central metro line (see previous item) media reports claim that a private consortium has proposed a high speed metro line connecting the Sydney CBD with the proposed airport at Badgerys Creek via Parramatta.

The link is estimated to cost $8 billion and would offer travel times of only 18 minutes between the city and Parramatta and 34 minutes from the CBD to the airport. The media reports claim that the new line would carry 90 million passengers annually and require only $2 billion in federal and state funding.

The proposed Sydney to Badgerys Creek Metro (source: Ch. 7/Yahoo - note 16 min travel time is for Sydney to Parramatta)

The proposed Sydney to Badgerys Creek Metro (source: Ch. 7/Yahoo – note 16 min travel time is for Sydney to Parramatta)

Between the city and Parramatta the route is very similar to that proposed for the Central metro line but would extend via Westmead and Badgerys Creek airport to Leppington, the current terminus of the South West Rail Link.

Speaking on ABC radio Minister for Territories, Local Government and Major Projects Paul Fletcher offered the proposal a cautious welcome while noting thatt the airport is unlikely to require a rail line when it first opens.

“Now this morning there are reports of a private sector consortium which has a particular proposal and certainly the rail study that we’ve got underway offers an opportunity for people with ideas to put them forward and we welcome that. We are working through this process,” he said.

“Certainly we do need to look at rail for the longer term. An important point is that the rail needs to meet not just the needs of the airport but also of Western Sydney. It needs to be part of the broader rail strategy.”

 Transport: Light Rail/Tram/BRT

Canberra light rail debate continues as planning minister looks at US & Canadian examples

The ACT Liberal Opposition is continuing its campaign against the territory’s Labor government light rail plans, urging the government not to sign a contract to construct the line.

The government recently announced that the Canberra Metro consortium had been selected as the successful bidder for the project (see TSW7). The opposition’s shadow minister for transport Alistair Coe has reiterated its call for the government not to sign any contracts before the ACT’s October elections.

“Today I’ll be moving a motion calling on the government not to sign contracts before the October Election. This is the sensible and cost effective solution that places the decision on light rail into the hands of Canberrans.

“However, the Opposition expects that the government will arrogantly ignore Canberrans by rushing to sign contracts prior to the October Election. My motion today calls on the government to focus on more generalised infrastructure that could be adapted for other transport options if they sign contracts,” Mr Coe said, repeating that the opposition would cancel the project if it wins in October.

The government firmly rejected the opposition’s claims, pointing to the party’s 2012 election promise to “plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network” with “construction estimated to commence in 2016”. Leader Andrew Barr called the opposition’s threat “irresponsible” and “economic lunacy”.

“If they are able to carry out this threat, Canberra’s reputation will be damaged forever,” he said.

The ACT’s Minister for Planning and Land Management, Mick Gentleman, has also announced that he will lead  business and industry leaders on a “planning and Urban Renewal delegation” to America and Canada The group will study transport networks such as light rail, the creation of Urban Villages and how policy and planning stimulate economic activity in cities similar in size to Canberra.

Meanwhile an economist at the Australian National University (ANU), Adjunct Associate Professor Leo Dobes has weighed into the Canberra light rail debate with a paper claiming that many of the claimed wider economic impacts (WEI) of transport projects incorporated into conventional cost-benefit analysis are likely to be exaggerated.

“The Canberra light rail project is a very good example with 20 per cent of the benefits attributed to wider economic impacts,” Prof  Dobes said in an interview.

 Gold Coast light rail hits 10 million trips as debate grows over future routes

Patronage on the Gold Coast light rail line has reached 10 million trips in the 18 months since it opened and plans are on schedule to commence construction in April of the line’s stage 2 extension to connect with the heavy rail network at Helensvale, according to local media.

As noted in TSW1, the Gold Coast City Council has been consulting on options to extend the line southwards. Some local residents have expressed reservations about many of the proposals especially extensions to some lower density centres, while prominent Gold Coast businessman Alan Midwood has called for all expansion plans to be stopped.

Other business and community leaders have supported the proposals and Gold Coast mayor Tom Tate defended the council’s transport strategies.

“As Mayor, I support the light rail continuing on south from Broadbeach, to the airport, in stages,” he said.

“This will occur as state, federal and local funding becomes available. I am also a strong advocate of an improved bus network that feeds off the light rail ‘spine’”.

Transport: Rail

A look at the new SEQ trains

A life-size replica of South East Queensland’s new commuter train has been unveiled and will be open to the public from 13 February.

According to a government statement the replica train has been an instrumental part of the New Generation Rollingstock (NGR) project, allowing local designs to be tested and modified. The first of the 75 6-car trains project is currently being shipped to Brisbane from India and is expected to enter service in the second half of 2016. The remaining NGR fleet will be progressively rolled out onto the network until late-2018.

New Generation Rolling stock for south east Queensland (source: Queensland Government)

New Generation Rolling stock for south east Queensland (source: Queensland Government)

The new trains will increase the overall size of the South East Queensland rail fleet by 30% and “provide a safer, more comfortable journey for passengers”. The project is being delivered under an Availability Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract awarded in 2013 to Bombardier NGR Consortium (now Qtectic). The NGR trains will be maintained in the new purpose-built maintenance centre at Wulkuraka west of Ipswich.

Melbourne elevated railway plans are approved – and criticised

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan have released designs for a $1.6 billion project to remove every level crossing between the Caulfield and Dandenong on the Cranbourne-Pakenham line.

Artist's impression of a station on the elevated Pakenham Line

Artist’s impression of a station on the elevated Pakenham Line (source: Victorian Government)

The plans involve elevating sections of the track to remove “nine dangerous and congested” crossings. The project includes five new stations to be built at Carnegie, Murrumbeena, Hughesdale, Clayton and Noble Park, and upgraded signalling and power along the corridor. According to the joint statement 225,000 square metres of community space will also be created.

The plans have been criticised by resident groups along the affected line claiming there was no consultation about the project. According to media reports over 2,000 people have signed a petition against the proposal, expressing concerns at the impact of the elevated line on their properties.

 Melbourne Metro “first priority” for federal Labor

The Melbourne Metro project will be “Labor’s first priority for Victorian infrastructure” under a future Labor government according to Anthony Albanese, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Cities and Tourism.

“If elected this year, Federal Labor will immediately convene talks with the Victorian Government and Infrastructure Australia to determine how to expedite the project.

“The Melbourne Metro will double the double the size of Melbourne’s underground train network, creating space for an extra 20,000 passengers in peak hour,” Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese also claimed that Victorians had been “dudded” by the Coalition Government, with the state receiving just 8% of federal infrastructure funding despite having a quarter of the national population.

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