Australia is sleepwalking its way towards becoming a nation of three megacities with regions which struggle with social and economic equity issues, the Planning Institute of Australia warns.
National President Steve O’Connor said the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit released today confirmed that addressing infrastructure, population and liveability in isolation was no longer feasible.
“Infrastructure Australia’s warning that lost national productivity from congestion may double in cost to $38.8 billion over the next 12 years is, frankly, alarming given the number and scale of the road and transport projects now under construction,” Mr O’Connor said.
“There’s a real possibility, too, that more heavily congested roads and limited transport choices could undermine people’s quality of life.”
Commonwealth, state and territory governments have lifted infrastructure investment levels substantially in recent years, but IA says an additional $600 billion will be needed to avoid dropping further behind.
Mr O’Connor said the IA audit revealed a lack of coherent decision-making framework in Australia for how growth and change was planned for specific cities and regions.
“What’s urgently needed is a thoughtful response to increasing urbanisation and other megatrends which respects the character and specific needs of our major cities and promotes thriving regional economies,” Mr O’Connor said.
Infrastructure Australia chair Julieanne Alroe said changing and growing demand, and a mounting maintenance backlog, were putting unprecedented pressure on infrastructure services.
“Rather than a short-term boom, the historic level of activity we are seeing in the sector must, and is likely, to continue for the next 15 years and potentially beyond. This must be the new normal if we are to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead,” Ms Alroe said.
She said more than $123 billion of construction work had commenced since the first Infrastructure Audit in 2015, with a committed forward pipeline of over $200 billion.
“However, there is much more to do to ease the pressures of growth, catalyse development and enable our businesses to compete on a global stage,” Ms Alroe said.
“The 2019 Audit finds that infrastructure in our four largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – is failing to keep pace with rapid population growth, particularly on the urban fringe.With our population projected to grow by 24 per cent to reach 31.4 million by 2034, our largest cities are expected to see pressure on access to infrastructure.
“The dominance of infill development in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane will require investment in high capacity public transport, enhancements to existing energy and water infrastructure, improved shared spaces and a renewal of inner city health and education services.
She warned that the costs of inaction would be significant.
“If investment were to stop, the cost of road congestion is projected to grow by $18.9 billion to $38.7 billion in 2031. This impacts quality of life, as well as our economic productivity and competitiveness as a nation,” Ms Alroe said.