Queensland continues to present significant opportunities for the private sector to become involved in infrastructure projects. The recent update to the South East Queensland Infrastructure Plan and Program 2010-2031 (SEQIPP) and release of the draft Connecting SEQ 2031 - An Integrated Regional Transport Plan for South East Queensland (Connecting SEQ) have identified the considerable infrastructure projects that are intended to be undertaken in coming years.
Overarching document - SEQ Regional Plan
The document which forms the basis for SEQIPP and Connecting SEQ is the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2009-2031 (SEQ Regional Plan) which is the major planning document for South East Queensland. It is a statutory instrument operating under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld) that seeks to manage regional growth and change in a sustainable way. The plan was first released by the Queensland Government in 2005 and is updated approximately every 5 years, with the last update occurring in 2009.
SEQIPP outlines the Queensland Government's infrastructure priorities to support the SEQ Regional Plan. It was also first released by the Queensland Government in 2005 and is updated annually to reflect and align with the State's latest planning and budget commitments. It remains the largest regional infrastructure plan in Australia and provides a long-term outlook on investment to inform industry and the community.
In total, the plan identifies an estimated expenditure of $134 billion for South East Queensland transport, water, energy, health, education and community services projects up to 2031. The Queensland Government has asserted that since SEQIPP commenced in 2005, 119 projects have been completed at a cost of approximately $22 billion. The plan describes the key infrastructure projects that have been completed, are under construction, or for which planning has commenced, including a number that Clayton Utz have been involved in, such as:
major road projects - Gateway Motorway Upgrade (including Sir Leo Hielscher Bridge duplication), Go Between Bridge, Northern Link, Airport Link and Clem Jones Tunnel (CLEM7);
public transport projects - Cross River Rail (detailed feasibility phase), Eastern Busway, Northern Busway and Inner Northern Busway; and
other projects - Queensland Children's Hospital, Gold Coast University Hospital, Wyaralong Dam, Northern Pipeline Interconnector and Darra to Springfield Transport Corridor.
Projects have generally been tracking in accordance with the indicative delivery timeframes, although these timeframes are heavily influenced by the availability of funding. For example the Petrie to Redcliffe Rail Corridor has been listed in SEQIPP indicatively for completion between 2020-2021 and 2025-2026, however during the recent Federal election campaign both parties committed to contributing funds to enable the delivery of the project by 2016.
Recent update to SEQIPP
On 20 July 2010 the Queensland Government released the latest annual update of SEQIPP. This year it has sought to transition SEQIPP to better complement the new priorities and timeframes set out in the SEQ Regional Plan that was updated in 2009. In particular, two changes have been made:
the plan has been divided into four greater regions (Greater Brisbane, Western Corridor and Western SEQ, Sunshine Coast, and Gold Coast) with an additional section for infrastructure benefiting the entire region (including water, energy, ports and freight). These divisions reflect the regional growth areas of SEQ and enable the transport and infrastructure needs of specific regions to be addressed separately; and
the new format differentiates infrastructure projects over the next four years from those planned through to 2031, unlike previous versions of SEQIPP which presented staged projects as single projects. Recognising that long-term infrastructure programs are subject to changes over time, the new format seeks to enhance the clarity of delivery and funding timeframes, and allow for variations in scope, sequencing and priority of projects.
The total project count has increased from 378 last year to 399 this year, largely because of the extended long-term outlook (up to 2031 rather than 2026) and extra staging of projects.
Recent release of Connecting SEQ
Connecting SEQ establishes a long-term plan to develop a sustainable transport system in South East Queensland. It works in partnership with the SEQ Regional Plan and SEQIPP. On 31 August 2010 the first version was released in draft by the Queensland Government. Formal public consultation is now being undertaken before the plan is finalised.
The Government articulates the key elements of Connecting SEQ as rail forming the backbone of the transport network, bus providing urban links, walking and cycling becoming more appealing, and roads continuing to play a major role in moving traffic, freight, buses and cyclists. The plan describes the infrastructure projects that are intended to facilitate these elements, but concedes that many of the projects proposed are new and conceptual and have not been the subject of detailed cost estimates. This has been a source of criticism for the plan, particularly from the Government opposition party.
Queensland Growth Management Summit - Queensland Infrastructure Plan
The recent update and release of these plans was influenced by the Queensland Growth Management Summit which was held in March 2010. It sought to bring together experts in planning, development, infrastructure and sustainability to explore solutions for a way forward and to deliver new strategies for the future of a growing Queensland population. As a result of the summit, the Queensland Government has announced a number of new initiatives and supporting actions.
The key announcement is the establishment of a Queensland Infrastructure Plan (QIP) which will be the long term planning document for infrastructure for the entire State, as the Queensland Government seeks to progress regionalisation and relieve pressure on the South East region. From 2011 QIP will replace SEQIPP and other State planning documents such as the Far North Queensland Infrastructure Plan and the Road Implementation Program. The document is intended to be a State-wide blueprint of road, public transport, health and education infrastructure required to match forecast population growth, which incorporates significant economic development activities such as the new LNG industry and associated infrastructure needs. Connecting SEQ is intended to remain in place and inform the annual revisions of QIP.
Funding and delivery of infrastructure projects
The various plans recognise that given the scale of the funding required, the projects are dependant on significant Australian Government and local government funding support, with any contributions from the Queensland Government being subject to fiscal capacity. There may also be opportunities to deliver further projects in partnership with the private sector.
The revised format of SEQIPP addresses the specific needs of regional areas in South East Queensland and allows for greater clarity in the timing of project delivery. Connecting SEQ is a companion document to SEQIPP which seeks to inform the content and implementation of the relevant projects. Importantly, the Queensland Government's commitment to these plans - and the proposed broader QIP from 2011 - provides confirmation that there will be significant opportunities for the private sector throughout Queensland in the foreseeable future.