Shake-up transport planning to achieve policy ‘hattrick’

Fixing WA’s planning and local government laws alone will not be enough to achieve the level of community support the state is seeking for its ambitious and necessary growth plans.  WA’s omnipotent transport agencies and systems also need a shake-up.

Pursuing policies and initiatives that grow WA is the only way the state will get its budget back in order.  And Planning Minister Saffioti has correctly identified the state’s planning and local government systems as key pillars to achieve growth.  Top of the outcomes required from an industry perspective, is more consistent and streamlined local planning regulations.

But the industry also understands that in 2017 we will not succeed in our ambitious and necessary growth plans without community endorsement.  And guess what the community rates as the number one concern about growth – congestion and the planning for congestion busting infrastructure like public transport and better roads.  

Unfortunately, this where the history of alignment between WA’s strategic planning and infrastructure investment is not good.  Countless studies have shown how WA pays a heavy price in not having a linked-up planning and infrastructure framework.  We have missed receiving our share of national infrastructure funding and investors have lacked the long-term confidence that comes from having a state infrastructure plan and transparent project assessment process.

There are many examples of the failure of WA’s infrastructure planning system.  Two stand out, the doomed Max Light Rail project and the stalled Stephenson Highway/Mitchell Freeway connection in Stirling.

The Max Light Rail project had us excited for a year or two about infill housing development in Perth’s inner north to be supported by light rail.  However, the Stephenson Highway non-event is a multi-decade saga of lost opportunity to deliver a big chunk of Perth’s necessary infill housing target (up to 10,000 homes) in arguably the most suited location in Perth.

 Any wonder that the community arcs up against growth when there are such spectacular failures of public policy.  In the middle there is the development industry which must manage its investment plans and new projects, often with hands tied in respect of infrastructure.

The State Labor Government correctly identified the problem by promising before the election to create for the first time an infrastructure plan for WA and the creation of Infrastructure WA, to guide the Government’s decision making and prioritising of major projects. We need to fast-track this if projects like METRONET are to fulfil their ambitions.  A shake-up of our transport mandarins would help too.