HALFWAY into its four-year term, the ACT Government has set an ambitious agenda with unprecedented investment in infrastructure projects that will change the shape of Canberra.But how will the ACT Government fund these visionary projects in a constrained economy?
Speaking at a Property Council lunch last month, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher acknowledged the importance of major projects to boost confidence and employment.
“Equally important, however, are the long-term dividends of infrastructure and urban renewal, which shape the city’s future and preserve one of our greatest advantages – Canberra’s unparalleled liveability,” she said.
While we are seeing some impacts from the Commonwealth Government’s cutbacks, with population growth subdued and employment growth flattening out, there are other signs that give the ACT Government cause for optimism: a strong investment outlook in residential construction; a modest 4.6 per cent increase in housing values year-on-year and steady residential building approvals.
The number of projects in design or delivery stage is unparalleled. The ACT Government has committed to $2.5 billion in infrastructure investment, which will bring new large-scale projects online as construction concludes on major projects which have driven activity in the past few years – primarily the Canberra Airport, Cotter Dam and Majura Parkway projects.
The $42 million upgrade to Constitution Avenue, for instance, will provide major public transport, infrastructure and landscape improvements.
The $21.3 million allocated in the ACT Budget for Capital Metro will complete the design and planning stages and place the government in an “investment-ready position” by year’s end.
And what Gallagher calls “one of the largest and most prestigious urban renewal projects in Australia” – the City to the Lake – is in planning phase, with the construction of a new waterway expected to be in delivery mode by 2016.
She said the government was “confident in its choice to invest strategically and shape the future” and was prepared to borrow money to finance “high-quality, productive infrastructure projects which generate jobs and deliver positive outcomes for the city and the people who live here.”