New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell has expressed his desire to see innovation in the state’s infrastructure after declaring that he prefers the government to take an arm’s length approach to development.
At a thought leadership luncheon hosted by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, O’Farrell said one of the highlights of his first three months in office was “getting the Infrastructure NSW legislation through parliament” because it was the first step in his government’s goal to improve the state’s economy by providing services that would promote it as a good place to do business and a good place to live.
The Bill allowed the NSW Government to set up Infrastructure NSW, an agency separate to the government that would look into the long term and manage projects on that basis.
“Infrastructure needs a separate agency from government, an expert who can put together a 20-year study and attach it to the Budget with five-year plans. It’s precisely the outcome that other states have had, Victoria and Queensland, but we haven’t had here because politics got in the way. We need a long-term, lasting strategy,” said O’Farrell.
One of the Premier’s initiatives is to rewrite the Planning Act after the once world-leading Environmental and Planning Assessment Act lost its way.
“Over the past 32 years it has been patched and patched and patched and every time it’s patched the Minister for Planning says ‘this is going to speed up the process’ and every time the minister says that you can be sure that at the end of events, the process gets slower,” he explained.
“We now have a planning system that is unpredictable. We now have a system that at a ministerial or council level can’t deliver the outcomes that we want, it’s not timely, it doesn’t seem like things are going ahead on the basis of merit.”
O’Farrell said he would look for the private sector to provide the expertise once the government and Infrastructure NSW had constructed the framework to allow commercial activity to flourish.
“I want the design and build to be done by the innovators and the innovators are never to be found in the public sector, they’re found in the private sector, they’re found in the individuals who are risking their own money and their shareholders’ money to make those investments,” he said.