Infrastructure NSW report reveals expensive projects will be ‘hard’ to deliver

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Major NSW projects like the Beaches Link and Parramatta Light Rail could be put on the back burner after a key report revealed they would become increasingly complex and expensive.

The NSW government’s independent infrastructure body said ‘megaprojects’ like the Beaches Link, Parramatta Tram, the M6 ​​motorway, a Blue Mountains tunnel linking Katoomba and Lithgow, major dams and future milestones Sydney Metro should be abandoned in favor of smaller projects that provide “high rewards”.

In its five-year strategy, published today, Infrastructure NSW argued that it would become increasingly difficult for the NSW Government to deliver complex multi-billion dollar projects due to labor shortages and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The construction industry’s capacity, supply chains and skills have all been strained by COVID-19 and other global events,” the report said.

“It would be particularly difficult to realize additional megaprojects profitably in the coming years.”

However, Infrastructure NSW has recommended that a proposal to raise the Warragamba dam wall proceed as planned to mitigate flooding in Sydney’s north-west low-rise suburbs.

Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes said plans would go ahead but could be postponed. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes said the NSW government remained committed to all of its projects, but hinted some could be delayed or postponed.

“The NSW Government remains committed to all projects,” he said.

“We must now heed advice from Infrastructure NSW regarding how we will sequence our record-breaking infrastructure pipeline in light of extraordinary global headwinds.”

Mr Stokes said the government must heed “independent advice from Infrastructure NSW.

“The report provides us with clear recommendations to diversify our infrastructure portfolio, consider smaller projects while continuing to deliver on city- and state-shaping projects.”

Regional Roads and Transport Minister Sam Farraway insisted the Great Western Highway tunnel through the Blue Mountains would go ahead on time, despite the report suggesting its urgency be reconsidered.

Deputy Premier and Regional Minister Paul Toole echoed that sentiment.

“We know how transformative major projects such as dams and roads can be for regional communities, and the NSW government remains committed to seeing these projects completed,” Mr Toole said.

Water spills from a dam
The Warragamba dam overflowed during floods on the north coast earlier this year. (ABC News)

But Labour’s shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey said it looked like the government was preparing to back down on key promises.

“These are projects that had already passed the government’s own assessment processes for need and affordability,” he said.

“The fact that the government is now backtracking on its own promises raises serious questions about how this government selects projects and how the government intends to pay for them.”

“These communities deserve clear answers from the government as to why these projects are being cut.”

NSW Labor MP Daniel Mookhey holds the poll ahead of the count on Saturday.
Shadow Treasurer Labor MP Daniel Mookhey said the move raised questions about how the government intended to pay for the projects. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Infrastructure NSW made 113 recommendations in total, including improving the state’s long-term water security by introducing recycled drinking water.

The report also argued for the government to continue with its “asset recycling” program, in which state-owned assets are privatized in order to finance new projects.

And he said private sector investment would be essential for the future provision of infrastructure and services by the state.

“The government should continue its successful policies such as asset recycling, user fees and value capture to support its infrastructure investment pipeline,” the report said.

“It should also seek more co-investment from the private sector and longer-term programmatic financial support from the Commonwealth.”

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