The first comprehensive state-wide plan to meet Victoria’s desired future infrastructure requirements is being determined right now, and it needs your input, says the chief executive of Infrastructure Victoria, the independent body charged with delivering the strategy.
This is your chance to have a say on the infrastructure you would like to live in and be proud of – the transport solutions, school facilities, utility and justice services, health and recreational facilities, environmental focus, science and technology solutions, infrastructure expansions, you name it.
“This is the very first time for Victorians to really have an opportunity to provide a short-, medium- and-long term list of recommendations on what Victoria needs in the future," Michel Masson, the CEO of Infrastructure Victoria says.
Whether you sit in a Melbourne traffic jam, live in a regional area with few public transport options to access jobs, or want to get to an airport by train, you can have your say. And transport is only one of the nine important categories under consideration through this initiative.
About a year ago the Andrews government established Infrastructure Victoria as an independent statutory authority to provide expert advice and guide decision-making on Victoria’s infrastructure needs and priorities.
Infrastructure Victoria was charged with producing a 30-year infrastructure strategy – with the emphasis on state-wide, not just Melbourne – to be delivered to parliament by the end of this year. The strategy will be divided into three clear timeframes – short term (up to five years), medium term (five to 15 years) and long term (15 to 30 years).
The state government has committed to delivering a five-year response plan to the 30-year infrastructure strategy by the end of 2017.
The first three stages of the strategy development have already happened or are near completion. The initial consultation by Infrastructure Victoria with key stakeholders and industry groups produced the ‘All things considered’ discussion paper and ‘Draft options book’. Community consultation on these documents took place to extend, refine and focus the approach. Since then, Infrastructure Victoria has been analysing the options and feedback and the draft strategy will be released by the end of September for further public consultation.
RACV, led by general manager public policy Brian Negus, has been closely involved in all stages and RACV made a submission to the ‘All things considered’ paper.
Overcoming short-term thinking
So how will this 30-year infrastructure strategy reset the discussion around Victoria’s long-term infrastructure needs, one that in the past has arguably been overly influenced by short-term political decision-making?
Mr Masson believes it will be through Infrastructure Victoria’s independence, its rigorous evidence and research-based approach, and because what it will propose will reflect extensive community input and be backed by community support.
While he understands that Infrastructure Victoria’s role is to make recommendations and that it will be the government of the day that will make the final decisions, he is convinced the final strategy, when it is delivered, will carry considerable weight.
“We believe the way we can change the framework is two fold,” he says. “Firstly, we want to create community ownership. We want to create that social alignment with Victoria so that the report we table is the voice of the people ... It’s about Victorians grabbing the opportunity to define what the future ... and letting the parliamentarians know that this is what we (the people) have selected and what we have decided.
From the people
“The second important factor is that for the first time we will have a very well debated, fully publicly available pipeline of recommendations coming from the people. Which means that politicians will be able to make whatever decisions they want, but if a politician decides to select a project which is not in the pipeline, we believe it will require a lot more explanation and evidence as to why.”
It’s a compelling position, and it’s why anyone with an interest in our state’s future infrastructure should get on board and have their say about the draft strategy, which will be released within weeks.
“Get acquainted to what we are saying and no matter what your reaction is, let us know – go and visit our website and read the draft strategy, and make sure you seize the opportunity,” Mr Masson says.
This is especially relevant for those in regional and rural Victoria.
“We’ve found that we struggle at times, in engaging with regional and rural Victoria, so it would be absolutely awesome to have that focus and that engagement from regional and rural Victorian members of RACV.”
HOW YOUR IDEAS WILL BE ASSESSED
Of the 230-plus options released for consultation as part of Infrastructure Victoria’s draft options book, more than 80 have a major transport-related component.
Proposals include road, rail, tram, bus and bicycle options, such as North East Link, Eastern Freeway and Western Ring Road connections to CityLink, Melbourne and Avalon airport rail links, a new international airport in the south-east of Melbourne, Brisbane freight rail and Sydney high speed train links, tram extensions, growth area bus expansion, regional bus upgrades and bicycle highways in the CBD.
Infrastructure Victoria will look for practical solutions that consider how to optimise existing road and rail assets. Then it will look at the large new pieces of infrastructure that Victoria needs over the next 30 years.
Some of key questions are: how to provide better access to the economic activity in Melbourne CBD? How to provide better access to inner and outer suburbs? And how to provide access to jobs and services in regional and rural Victoria?
ACTION NEEDED ON CONGESTION, TAX
One area under review is a whole-of-network pricing regime for roads and public transport to replace taxes on motoring.
Infrastructure Victoria’s Michel Masson says that appropriate road pricing can be used to manage demand for travel.
Current road taxes are not consistent, he said. “For example, why does it cost a family of four in Richmond less to take a car to go to the CBD than to hop on a tram?”
RACV general manager public policy Brian Negus said the current motoring tax system is “totally inequitable”. There is fuel excise plus GST, import duties, sales tax, registration and transfer taxes and luxury car tax. “We need a review of the complete system to get fairer road-user pricing that reflects how and when we travel, with all the revenue raised dedicated to improving our roads and public transport.”
Mr Negus said people who travel less on roads should pay less and those in country areas should also pay less. If you travel in congested peaks you could pay more.
HAVE YOUR SAY
VISIT yoursay.infrastructurevictoria.com.au to lodge feedback, comments and ideas.
VISIT infrastructurevictoria.com.au to see submissions (including the one from RACV), comments, all external research and information commissioned in determining the draft 30-year strategy.
Submissions range from an idea or comment to a large submission with evidence.
Illustration: Carolyn Ridsdale
September 01, 2016