Thursday, October 04, 2012

Has the Greiner infrastructure report failed New England?

Infrastructure NSW has finally released its blue print Nick Greinerinto the State's long term infrastructure needs. This photo of Mr Greiner is from the Australian. It's a long report and I have to assess it properly. However, I thought that I would give you a quick preliminary reaction, subject to the necessary qualification that my views may change with further analysis.

To begin with, in presentation, it is one of those reports so beloved by modern governments all expressed in present tense. In <insert date>, NSW will <insert aspiration>. To counter this, my starting point is always to ask if the proposals achieve every one of the expected benefits, will New England be better off and if so how? The answer is not much, with some minor gains in some areas, potential losses in others.

To understand this, you have to look at some of the assumptions built into the report. These include:

  1. There is such a thing as a NSW economy. There is not beyond a statistical construct based on current boundaries.
  2. That economic growth in Sydney will have spin-off benefits to the rest of NSW. That's an assumption. My view is otherwise.
  3. That modelling and policy should be based on current trends, on what is, not what might be. The past is not a good guide to the future, nor does analysis based just on aggregate statistics of what is provide a solid planning base without considering other variables.
  4. That you can analyse inland NSW by lumping everything from the escarpment minus the Blue Mountains into a single entity.

The report suffers, too, from  border myopia. It does not adequately recognise the interlinks between parts of NSW and surrounding jurisdictions.

If the report delivers on every one of the identified New England benefits, this is (broadly) what we can expect:

  1. The Pacific Highway upgrade will continue because it is current policy, but subject to reviews as to costs and value for money.
  2. Some money will be invested in the coal corridor. However, there appears no recognition of the need to assist local authorities to manage the strain on infrastructure created by mining development. 
  3. There will be some investment in Hunter water needs. Other water bodies will be aggregated into bigger units.
  4. There will be some new investment in dams for irrigation.
  5. Other existing projects will continue, but inland NSW won't get anything because this cannot be justified on the economic modelling. I refer you to assumptions 3 and 4 above.

Now because I have only skim read the report, I am happy to be corrected. But do you think that a New England Government would have had quite the same focus?   

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