Positives in recycling plan

Why would commercial property owners be advocates for a long-term lease of the state’s electricity transmission network?

At its core, the property industry comprises patient investors in assets that provide a stable income stream for millions of Australians with superannuation. It means we invest in cities for the long haul – through the commercial office towers, shopping centres and industrial portfolios that anchor economic activity.

But our exposure also gives us an inherent interest in seeing cities thrive and prosper.

For Sydney, there are few bigger challenges than overcoming the lag on infrastructure spending that has bedevilled us for a decade or more.

But there are positive signs afoot. NSW Premier Mike Baird and Treasurer Andrew Constance are pitching a plan to recycle capital fromits poles and wires businesses into the next generation of infrastructure projects.

It promises about $20 billion for newprojects, including the North WestRail Link and first phases of WestConnex. The concept of a second harbour rail crossing that underpins the next phase of growth in our CBD and builds better connections into markets like Macquarie Park can become a reality. It both adds capacity across the network – with up to 100,000 more passengers an hour in peak periods – and joins up emerging centres in the north and south of the city.

Investment in more efficient networks tomove freight across the city will also help support the nextwave of investment in employment precincts in Sydney’s west. We also know it’s a model that works.

In 2013, the state leveraged more than $400 million from the sale of seven office assets it had owned to invest in infrastructure needed to unlock new housing areas. And proceeds from the ports were used to seed projects ranging from WestConnex to the light rail into Newcastle’s CBD.

Sydney’s growth is rapid. It’s time to get ahead of the game and give us the productive, mobile and sustainable city we want.

Asset recycling can give us the head start we need.

Glenn Byres is the NSW executive director, Property Council of Australia

This piece was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald