The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was so concerned in 2009 at the reckless behaviour of the NSW Labor Government that it required all States and Territories to prepare “city plans” by 2012. That Government was in paroxysms over plan-less and un-legitimised metro trains, with the ludicrous CBD Metro finally being discarded in 2010. Infrastructure Australia (iA) under its chairman Sir Rod Eddington was in the middle of the fray, leading COAG’s thinking.
After Labor’s “metro fiasco” and “planning stench”, O’Farrell promised to set up Infrastructure NSW under the Lib’s most successful former Premier, Nick Greiner. NSW Business Chamber’s CEO said it would improve governance and transparency. Berejiklian proceeded to reject iNSW’s State Infrastructure Strategy, leading to the end of the “Liberal Bromance” (Daily Telegraph) and Greiner’s departure. The collapse of governance and transparency has been ignored by the Chamber under its own “bromance” with Berejiklian.
Leaping forward, a decade down the track, we had a reforming State Coalition Government from March 2011 with its promise to “end the planning stench”, but it mishandled its local government, planning and transport streams, and is already down two Premiers and the third is facing the Grattan Institute’s judgement of the projects she drove, still without a “city plan”, being “The current guess-and-check approach to planning multi-billion dollar investments is negligent…”.
The Greater Sydney Commission was to mark a “new paradigm” of engagement according to then Planning Minister Stokes; who also said it would “operationalise” Berejiklian’s capricious projects.
The paradigm was of deceit and concealment as seen in its claim of “independence”, District Plans which lacked solutions let alone options, add a disastrous axial densification modality, and generalised housing targets which fell apart as soon as I publicised what they really meant.
The Chief Commissioner of the GSC said in her Bradfield Oration in 2016 that
We have an established reputation for quality and innovation and right now we are experiencing massive infrastructure investment through projects such as the Sydney Metro. I have no doubt that in the future these projects currently underway will be seen as game changers of the same scale as the Harbour Bridge, the Opera house or hosting the Sydney Olympics.
They are game-changers – for the worse, destructive and uneconomic. GSC’s citizens panel on the Metro is facetious and a distortion of “citizen juries” and “regional assemblies”. They are supposed to be fed truth.
As Greiner said in 2013, “this is all a bit arse-about”. Similarly, even though Sir Rod left iA in April ’14, it still reports in his spirit that
instances of poor project selection and weak governance continue to occur… (without) long-term planning or rigorous economic analysis; favouring large ‘iconic’ projects over smaller, often higher value, investments; and not releasing the full business case for multi-billion dollar projects. In addition, a lack of transparency … makes it harder to build community support for future investments and complex reforms ….
Grattan gave many examples of cost overruns in the States and Territories, due to poor pre-planning and sloppy implementation, totalling $28 billion over 15 years (averaging $2 billion a year). NSW is beating that by a wide margin.
Greiner put the real answer concisely in his iNSW 2012 report re Anzac Pde – the now-derided project that blew out from $500 million to lord-knows $3 billion and more as the legal proceedings mount:
The business case to support any investment by Government, and demonstrate value-for-money, will need to compare the preferred light rail proposal to alternative options, for example improving existing bus services or using higher capacity buses.