The Committee for Sydney argues the sale of the state’s electricity network is a preferred means of funding more roads and rail projects.

17 July 2014 — The Committee for Sydney’s July update to Sydney – Adding to the Dividend Ending the Divide makes a strong argument for increasing investment in public transport infrastructure in order to help the city recover the lead in the economic race, which the committee believes is at risk of being lost to Melbourne.

In the update, the committee has argued that the sale of the state’s electricity network is a preferred means of funding more roads and rail projects.

“The Government has announced its intention to seek a sale of the State ‘poles and wires’ and to hypothecate much of the funding released for key infrastructure projects long sought by the Committee such as the Second Harbour Crossing, a new rapid transit system and new light rail investment,” the report states.

“By so doing the Government in our view has made a powerful case for the benefits to Sydney of such a sale. Though there must have been pressure on the NSW Government following the Federal budget to attempt to target the capital resources released to fill operational budget gaps in current state services, the temptation seems to have been resisted.

“The focus of the proceeds is the right one: to invest in wealth-generating infrastructure to support economic strengthening and future proofing of Sydney as the engine of state and national growth. The Committee, in supporting the sale of the ‘poles and wires’, commends the strategic view taken of community benefit. We note of course that such a sale on this scale can only happen once and does not diminish the need for governments to plan long term for the sustainable funding of Sydney’s infrastructure.”

Public transport is a key element of the strategies suggested for improving Effective Job Density, particularly for Parramatta, Liverpool and Penrith, which have become major employment nodes. Research by PwC shows the economy of Western Sydney has in fact been outstripping the economic growth of the CBD for more than a decade.

However, the research shows the jobs in these areas are generally less highly paid overall than CBD jobs, and there is a concern that the income gap between the inner city, where knowledge economy jobs are dominant, and the western and outer suburbs may continue to grow.

The committee is critical of aspects of the draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney, particularly the proposed residential growth areas, arguing that more homes need to be created where the greatest access to employment exists and, conversely, more jobs where the highest level of residential development is occurring.

“Given the high EJD of the North Shore, the relatively low number of homes identified for the North Shore in the draft Metro strategy for Sydney is anomalous. Equally, the very high number of homes planned for the south-west corridor and growth area must lead to much more enabling infrastructure investment and be matched by new, higher value jobs,” the report states.

“Liverpool and Penrith must be enabled to add to their EJD not just by faster links to the Sydney CBD but by better transport links also between those two key regional centres and their surrounding districts. On the evidence presented here, the improved public transport and road links between Liverpool, Penrith and Badgery’s Creek now being considered by State and Federal governments will be vital if Western Sydney is to exploit the economic potential of the second airport. The Western Sydney Light Rail scheme is clearly justified on the data presented here in terms of its potential impact on EJD and its contribution to the strengthening of Parramatta as a key centre – with enhanced links to the fast growing Macquarie Park – in a more polycentric Sydney.”

Five key strategies are suggested for achieving a genuinely polycentric Sydney:

  1. Enable more homes to be built – at higher densities – closer to economic activity and public transport nodes.
  2. Radically improve the transport system’s capacity to connect jobs and people: while welcoming Westconnex and the new roads planned to the second airport this also means recognising that in the knowledge economy era a public transport revolution is required in Greater Sydney which will not just connect people much faster to the CBD and the ‘global economic arc’ but also radically reduce transport times between as well as to Parramatta, Liverpool and Penrith, better linking them to their surrounding communities and employment areas as well as to ‘global Sydney’.
  3. See a renewed focus on developing the economic capacity and international competitiveness of the Sydney CBD and its extension via the ‘global economic arc’.
  4. Ensure sufficient policy focus, planning and cross-government coordination are in place to realise the economic potential of the key regional centres of Parramatta, Liverpool and Penrith: the Committee repeats its call for an economic strategy for Western Sydney – and we add the need now for specific measures to enable local business and communities to leverage the economic benefits of the second airport.
  5. Create more Metro-scale governance so that Sydney’s communities can come together to solve strategic challenges, exploit opportunities across and break down divides which undermine the performance of the city: the new Premier must grasp the opportunity for reform of the governance of Sydney – and how its growth is managed and planned.

You can download the complete issues paper here.