The low-key project that could be essential to our recovery
AS we slowly edged our way out from the confines of lockdown over the last week, plummeting temperatures around our state marked one of the coldest starts to a winter season many of us Queenslanders have had to endure for some time.
While the mercury drops and nature moves into winter hibernation, we must move in the opposite direction as normality slowly returns to society. Our minds must turn to helping our economy claw out from the depths of its own COVID hibernation.
Infrastructure is an important component of recovery. However, just as hibernating animals work hard to conserve their energy reserves as the temperature drops, so too we will need to conserve our finite financial reserves for the projects that can deliver the best value.
We have encouraged governments to focus on a staged infrastructure response. First by protecting and maintaining the existing pipeline of protects, then moving to mobilisation of new projects small and large. We are also advocating that industry reform be considered as part of long term recovery.
Throughout this staged response, selecting projects that deliver lasting benefits will be crucial.
Infrastructure Australia cut its teeth during the GFC, and is playing a critical role in providing a credible pipeline of investments for all governments to choose from and we expect our Infrastructure Priority List to continue to play this role in supporting the national conversation about Australia's spending priorities.
Currently 11 Queensland projects are listed on the Infrastructure Priority List. Many of these are crucial for supporting our regional centres and economies, such as upgrades to the Bruce Highway near Cooroy, Mackay and further north near Cairns.
As important as these major projects are on the road to recovery, we must not forget the value of smaller projects.
While it may not draw the same ribbon-cutting fanfare and attention as new train lines and motorways, road maintenance is a great example of the need to prioritise a smaller program of work and one that can greatly benefit Queensland.
A road maintenance program can generate high involvement of labour, trade and skills and still deliver significant benefits in improved safety and reducing transport costs for the growing Queensland freight industry and for all road users.
In this year's Priority List, we called for a National Road Maintenance Strategy to address the road maintenance backlog across local, state and national roads. Fixing these issues will make moving freight cheaper and more reliable, and get people home quicker and safer.
Beyond shovel-ready projects, it will also be critical for further investment in expediting larger projects to market. Investment in planning and design is critical to ensure the pipeline of projects continues.
Some of these nationally significant initiatives have already been identified on the Infrastructure Priority List including more capacity in the M1 Pacific Motorway corridor on the Gold Coast, planning for freight rail access from Inland Rail to the Port of Brisbane, upgrading Queensland's inland road network and improving the Warrego Highway corridor.
The speed with which these initiatives can develop from concept to developed project and then delivery, will determine the speed of our economic recovery.
Julieanne Alroe is chair of Infrastructure Australia
Originally published as The low-key project that could be essential to our recovery