Support for NSW Infrastructure

(Parliament House)

I support the Infrastructure NSW Bill 2011, which will establish a body to plan, coordinate and ensure the delivery of infrastructure in this State as well as develop a 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy and five-year infrastructure plans. We have a backlog of vital infrastructure needed for Sydney's effective functioning and competitiveness. Sydney is a global city that is worth 25 per cent of the gross domestic product of the State and 8 per cent of our national economy. The recent New South Wales election results showed a strong mandate for reform. People have had enough of short-term decisions and want long-term planning and investment in our future. We need State Government leadership that responds to the challenges of growth and climate change.

Transport infrastructure particularly has been neglected. The failure to provide a clean, efficient, integrated, world-class transport system is risking our world-renowned liveability. Cars are choking Sydney. Already there are almost 15 million car trips in Sydney each day and in the central business district there are nearly 100,000 car trips and 6,000 bus movements on any weekday. It makes our city unpleasant and unhealthy. Vehicle growth is forecast to be 42 per cent over the next 10 years, and there simply is not the space to accommodate that. In 2009 travel time, unreliability, fuel costs and air pollution associated with congestion cost Sydney $4.6 billion, and that will rise to $8 billion by 2020. Without investment in light rail, heavy rail, cycling and walking infrastructure Sydney will grind to a halt.

An immediate priority is light rail to move workers, shoppers and visitors around the city centre. Seventy-five per cent of people come to the city centre by public transport, with a further 10 per cent walking or riding. Up until now priority has been given to the 15 per cent who come into the city by motor vehicle. We also need light rail connections to the sporting stadia, where patrons arriving at and leaving matches cause significant local and city-wide congestion as well as inconvenience to themselves because they are sitting in gridlock for sometimes up to two hours. Services could link with the University of New South Wales. Another service that is urgently needed is to Green Square—Australia's major urban renewal site—where population densities are expected to increase by up to 137 per cent and peak bus services are too full to stop and pick up existing residents, and that is before the expected 22,000 jobs and 40,000 residents come into the area. I hope that Infrastructure NSW will consider active transport infrastructure, particularly cycling, which not only provides new alternative transport options but also reduces the Health budget by preventing lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Of course, we all know that we shamefully have the highest rate of obesity of any country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Independent research commissioned by the council indicates that an inner-city regional network covering 15 inner local government areas would deliver at least $506 million in net economic benefits over 30-years, which is a $4 return on every dollar spent compared with just $2 for motorway projects. It could reduce Sydney's traffic by 4.3 million car trips a year and thereby free up road space for those who need to drive. Inner city councils continue to press the Federal Government for funds, and this is something Infrastructure NSW should push for in a submission to Infrastructure Australia. That project has been funded by the State and the 14 councils. If it were to proceed, it would provide safe cycling for 164 suburbs and move an enormous number of people from cars and the roads, and onto a healthy alternative. It would enable people to cycle safely from Chatswood in the north to Kogarah in the south and from Bondi in the east to Canada Bay in the west. It would make a significant positive contribution to our city. While cycling is not for everyone, and despite not being finished yet, the city's 200-kilometre bike path network has seen the number of bike trips double and triple on some cycleway links. That demonstrates how important it is to make it safe and viable for those who want to avail themselves of that option.

After years of budgets giving priority to road expansions, I hope that Infrastructure NSW will prioritise heavy rail, mass transit and cycling in its plans. They are better for our long-term wellbeing than roads, which quickly become congested. Environmental sustainability should be at the forefront of infrastructure planning. We know that Australia has the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions because of our reliance on coal for energy. Over the next three years electricity prices in New South Wales will rise by up to 42 per cent due to the proposed $18 billion network upgrade. That expenditure will simply provide the wires and poles to bring nineteenth and twentieth century energy services to our city.

Now is the time to rethink the way we supply and distribute power. Infrastructure NSW should be required to promote sustainable approaches to electricity as part of its infrastructure plans, as well as long-term strategy and energy sector strategy statements. Energy from local infrastructure such as trigeneration can reduce emissions and costs, and avoid supply risks associated with connections to distant power stations. Similarly, in securing our water supply we should prioritise recycling and stormwater harvesting rather than dams and desalination.Sustainable Sydney 2030 is the City of Sydney's plan for our environmental, economic, social and cultural sustainability. It stems from extensive research and broad consultation with residents, business, government, retail and other sectors. There was an extraordinarily high degree of consensus on the need to reduce our carbon footprint and for a twenty-first century public transport system. We have set ambitious targets and we have significant projects underway, including working to produce 100 per cent of the inner-city's energy needs locally. I have consistently called for a long-term infrastructure plan for New South Wales supported by law and coordinated by one governing body. I therefore commend the bill to the House.

To read full debate visit NSW Parliament website, HERE.