Infrastructure Australia has today launched its 2021 priority list, highlighting investments to support Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to address environmental hurdles such as drought and bushfires.
Since August — when Infrastructure Australia released a mid-year update of the list for the first time ever — a record number of 44 new investment opportunities have been added to the list. This includes an upgrade to the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in Canberra.
More than half of the new proposals impact regional communities. One new proposed national initiative, which has been listed as ‘high priority’, is improving the accessibility of health services for Australians living in regional and remote areas by enabling digital health in regional hubs.
While the February 2020 list focused on initiatives that would help address challenges posed by climate change, this year’s list offers an “investment roadmap” which governments can use to respond to COVID-related issues, according to Infrastructure Australia chief executive Romilly Madew.
“COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the way Australians use critical infrastructure. We have seen changing work patterns, a pause on Net Overseas Migration, and a 200% increase in people moving from capital areas to regional areas,” she said in a statement on Friday.
“These changes present a range of new challenges and the priority list looks to identify infrastructure investments that will meet the diverse needs of our communities in this new environment.
“The importance of a robust, evidence based investment pipeline has only increased as we look to recover from the dual health and economic crises of COVID-19, and grapple with further shocks and stresses including floods and bushfires, long-lasting drought, and a changing climate.”
The list identifies a $59 billion project pipeline, with six ‘high priority’ projects, 17 ‘priority’ projects, 48 ‘high priority’ initiatives, and 109 ‘priority’ initiatives.
Key themes of the 2021 list include:
- Opportunities to develop export gateways to support Australia’s international competitiveness,
- Investment in new sources of energy and enabling infrastructure for hydrogen exports,
- Driving economic development in regional communities and improving digital connectivity,
- Investment to support digital health services in regional and remote Australia,
- Addressing challenges around strategic planning for water capture, use and management.
Madew argued that Australia must address existing infrastructure gaps while also prioritising investments that will secure its future prosperity.
“The 2021 priority list, with its evidence-based proposals and clear focus on community outcomes, is a critical place to start,” she said.
Ten projects have moved off of the priority list and into the construction phase this year, including the M4 Motorway Upgrade in New South Wales, the METRONET Morley-Ellenbrook Line in Western Australia, and sections of the Bruce Highway and M1 Pacific Motorway in Queensland.
The list has been based on the agency’s research, as well as submissions from state and territory governments, industry and the community.