A ‘city deal’ between the NSW government and Commonwealth is expected to create more than 100,000 jobs
THEY say money can’t buy you happiness. But we all know that isn’t true.
For proof just look in the direction of NSW Premier Mike Baird. A week ago the downtrodden state Liberal leader, sullen faced and apologetic, announced a backflip on his plan to axe greyhound racing.
It’s only taken $16 billion to turn that frown upside down.
On Thursday, Mr Baird announced the Government had sold a 50.4 per cent stake in NSW poles and wires operator Ausgrid for $16.189bn to a consortium including superannuation fund AustralianSuper. The lease will last for 99 years.
After paying down debt this will give an immediate $6bn boost to State Government coffers. Add to that $7bn netted by the $10bn sale of the electricity transmission network operator TransGrid and the future sale of a stake in Endeavour Energy and Baird’s got a whole lot to smile about.
The billions of dollars flowing in will help the Government raise, by some estimates, a total of $40bn to spend on infrastructure.
To put that into perspective, that’s 12 times the amount of money spent by Woolworths on creating and then dismantling the failed Masters home improvement chain.
So what are they going to spend it on?
Mr Baird gave some clues today heavily hinting western Sydney would be a key beneficiary.
“Clearly, yesterday was a great day for this state because … we now have financial capacity to do more,” he said.
Western Sydney and the area around the yet to be built Badgerys Creek Airport were “not just going to be an economic driver for this city,” said Mr Baird. “I strongly believe, in the next 20-25 years, it’s going to be the economic driver for this nation.”
It was too early to speculate on what projects the dosh would be splashed on, said the Premier, but he noted western Sydney was predicated to have another one million residents within the next two decades.
But as many Sydneysiders living underneath a crane know – there’s plenty of work that has started even without the extra billions.
THE BIG BUILDS ALREADY HAPPENING
NSW is already in the midst of a building boom. These projects are already funded and shouldn’t eat into the proceeds from the sale of Ausgrid and the other poles and wires operators.
Sydney Metro rail lines
Australia’s largest public transport project is predicted to cost at least $12.5bn and will see single deck driverless trains travel over a 50km route from Bankstown in the city’s southwest to Rouse Hill in the north west.
Some 36km of this are entirely new track including a new route through the CBD which, tragically for jewellery fans, will see the Tiffany’s store demolished for a new escalator.
The project is well in train with the initial north west section due to open in 2019.
Sydney and Newcastle light rail
Anyone who’s visited the Sydney CBD will see the work going on to massively expand the city’s tram network. The $2.2bn line is due to open in 2019. The light rail replacement for the heavy rail into second city Newcastles’ CBD is also underway but the new funds could see it extended silencing critics who say it needs to head deeper into the suburbs.
Massively controversial, the WestConnex will see the M4 and M5 motorways extended beneath the terraced homes of Sydney’s inner west to eventually create subterranean spaghetti of new roads.
Already a slew of historic homes have been felled to build new slip roads.
The Government won’t be expecting much change of $20bn once it’s completed in 2023.
THE BIG BUILDS IN THE PIPELINE
This are the giant, and expensive, new projects the NSW Government will hope to spend the proceeds of the poles and wires on.
Western Metro rail line
There’s already a railway line between Parramatta in the city’s west and the CBD. But what’s another one between friends especially it it’s only going to cost $10bn?
The new line would expand capacity on the current line, one of Sydney’s busiest, as well as opening up areas currently undeserved by public transport including Olympic Park and the Bays Precinct which the Government hopes will become Australia’s version of Silicon Valley.
The line could also be extended to the new Badgerys Creek Airport.
Parramatta light rail
If Mr Baird wants to live up to his promises of investment in western Sydney giving this project the tick would be good.
$3.5bn would buy a three line system from Westmead in the west to Carlingford in the north and Olympic Park in the east with all routes meeting in Parramatta.
But the new found enthusiasm for the Western Metro, which duplicates part of the light rail route, has called the project into question.
Second Sydney Harbour Tunnel
Another case of doubling the current overloaded infrastructure. A new tunnel would bypass the CBD entirely connecting up the city’s northern and southern suburbs.
For over 50 years, a 16km stretch of green has threaded its way through Sydney’s southern suburbs waiting for the political will — and cash — to turn it into a motorway. The Government may be in a position now to do both.
The road would take traffic from the M1 Princes Motorway, previously known as the F6, from Wollongong, which currently only goes as far as Sydney’s borders, right into the heart of the city.
But the cost will be massive. Suburbs have encroached right up to the reserved corridor meaning the route will likely have to go underground adding billions to the cost.
One of the most hated bridges on one of the most hated roads in Sydney could find it bypassed by a tunnel.
The Spit Bridge provides one of the only connections between the North Shore and Northern Beaches. And much to the chagrin of drivers, every time a millionaire’s yacht has to pass through the bridge has to be raised.
The $2bn tunnel could stretch from the M1 near Neutral Bay all the way to Balgowlah dramatically reducing traffic times.
M9 orbital motorway
If $5bn is burning a hole in Baird’s pocket he could green light a second motorway bypassing Sydney to the west.
The M9 would relieve pressure on the M7 and provide a direct link from the north and south to Penrith and Badgerys Creek Airport.
The Government has been at pains to point out not all the funds will be spent on road and rail projects and not all in Sydney so expected several billion to spent on project such as new hospitals and away from the big smoke.
Whatever happens, Mr Baird will likely have quite a legacy to look back on in a few decades time.