End of year Infrastructure appointments: CEOs for NAIF and Faster Trains Agency

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday December 17, 2019

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The federal government has revealed former Queensland coordinator-general Barry Broe as head of the National Faster Rail Agency, five months after establishing it, and announced a new chief executive for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, five months after the last one quit.

Broe abruptly left the very senior role with the Queensland Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning in mid-August, a few months before his term was due to end, and his duties were taken over by the department head.

He will start a five-year term as head of the newly created executive agency on January 6, taking over from acting CEO Malcolm Southwell, who was seconded from the Department of Infrastructure.

The federal Minister for Population, Cities and Urban Infrastructure, Alan Tudge, noted Broe’s “vast experience in transport infrastructure” and direct experience in rail.

“Mr Broe has spent over 40 years in major project, transport and public sector infrastructure delivery including over 17 years at executive or CEO level. He has direct local and international experience in rail and planning.

“He has held senior executive roles with Brisbane Infrastructure, Transport for London and Queensland Transport. Mr Broe will serve as CEO for an initial five-year term.”

Tudge says the NFRA will work closely with state and territory governments as it tries to improve links between cities and towns around the country.

“Faster rail networks are crucial to easing congestion pressures in our cities and shaping Australia’s future as our population grows,” the minister said. “Investing in faster rail will create jobs and bust congestion, giving time back to commuters and enabling more people to live in our regions while working in our cities.”

Broe will work with an expert advisory panel that is yet to be appointed.

From Clean Energy to Northern Australia

Chris Wade, who until recently led the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s work in the property sector, will become chief executive of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility on January 20.

The NAIF’s former CEO Laurie Walker announced her intention to resign in early July, and was replaced by acting CEO Amanda Copping when her term came to an end on October 31. Copping will now return to her role as the executive director for “origination” of projects.

Wade’s qualifications and experience cover finance, engineering, and social-impact investment. Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan noted his experience in governance with the Infrastructure Association of Queensland, and a range of other infrastructure-related bodies.

Established in July 2016, the $5 billion financing entity has been a particular target of the opposition, which has mocked it as the “no actual infrastructure fund” due to a conspicuous lack of action in its first few years of operation.

The NAIF board and the minister both say Walker was guiding the NAIF through its initial establishment, restructuring and changes to its mandate. It will be Wade’s role to lead it through “an exciting phase of delivery”, according to Canavan.

“I am confident that Chris’ experience in the areas of infrastructure, property and renewable energy will bring a fresh perspective to the work of the NAIF and help maintain the momentum we are seeing with projects reaching key milestones,” the minister said.

“Nationally, $1.93 billion in NAIF investment decisions and conditional approvals has been made across 17 projects which are forecast to create 4,600 jobs, with total public benefit forecast at $4.6 billion – and there is more to come.”

NAIF chair Professor Khory McCormick maintains that the entity “achieved much” during Walker’s three years in the job, especially after it was given “greater finance assessment flexibility” through the changes to its mandate.

“With a number of important deals at advanced stages and NAIF moving to enhance the transformational and iconic project aspects of its operations, this is an exciting time for NAIF and for the North,” he said in a statement. “We are delighted that Chris will lead the organisation’s highly committed and skilled team in this next period when NAIF’s delivery of ever increasing public benefit will be realised.”

McCormick said Wade was considered alongside several other impressive candidates in a thorough executive search process. “During the process it became clear that Chris’s combination of infrastructure experience, financial acumen and executive leadership skills form a compelling combination for steering the organisation through the exciting times and opportunities ahead.”

The NAIF chair said it was to the “great credit” of Copping and the rest of the NAIF team that investment decisions continued to be made in the absence of a permanent chief executive. “Amanda’s competency and interpersonal skills have meant momentum in project delivery has been maintained through this transition period.”

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