16 March 2023

Commonwealth should be light rail partners for next stage into National Triangle, says Barr

| Ian Bushnell
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Andrew Barr giving a speech

Chief Minister Andrew Barr at the CEDA event at the Kurrajong Hotel: wants Commonwealth to be light rail partner. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

Major Canberra public projects may not necessarily be delayed, but the pressures of a booming population and an overheated infrastructure sector will mean the ACT Government will face “sequencing” challenges in its infrastructure program, according to Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

Speaking after delivering his State of the Territory address to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event today, Mr Barr said the ACT faced tough decisions driven by market constraints, the availability of materials and labour, and Commonwealth priorities in housing, public transport and healthcare, particularly the need to rebuild primary care after a decade of neglect.

Mr Barr said in his speech that the government would be providing updates to its infrastructure plan over the next 18 months, starting with entertainment, arts and sporting projects in the coming weeks, followed by health and education priorities.

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He said later that this did not mean delays to big projects such as the Canberra Theatre redevelopment and light rail, but the ACT’s goals in extending light rail into the National Triangle and boosting the supply of affordable housing would rely to some extent on deals with the Commonwealth.

The ACT would talk to the Albanese Government over the next 12 to 18 months about partnering with the Territory on light rail stage 2B across the lake to Woden.

“The Commonwealth has made some commitments already on Stage 2A, but we will need them to step up as it’s their land and it will be going to service largely the APS – 50,000 to 60,000 jobs in the National Triangle,” Mr Barr said.

“It’s a very powerful argument for public transport.”

Mr Barr said that if the Federal Government continued increasing employment in the National Triangle, it could not keep building $200 to 300 million car parks.

He had told Finance and Public Service Minister Senator Katy Gallagher that the next investment for the Triangle should be in public transport and light rail.

Mr Barr told the CEDA event that the Territory would continue to borrow for long-term projects like light rail that would benefit future generations.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable for this generation to be asked to pay upfront for assets that will be enjoyed for the century,” he said.

In housing, the Commonwealth had indicated a potential funding stream for more public and social housing through the Accord but the ACT was awaiting the detail.

Mr Barr said that type of housing would also need land, and while there had been some progress on the former CSIRO site in Canberra’s north, the chances of using part of the Australian Institute of Sport precinct in Bruce had evaporated with the Sports Commission’s plans to rejuvenate the site.

The ACT was now in talks with the ASC on redeveloping the precinct beyond the restoration and opening of the AIS Arena.

“What’s being proposed is a rejuvenation of the sports facilities with potential for some ancillary precinct improvements like hotels,” Mr Barr said.

“I’d love to see Bentspoke or Capital set up facilities out there, similar to Fyshwick or Dairy Road.”

Mr Barr said this week’s announcement of Canberra being a potential A-League football franchise did not change the government’s position on a new stadium, as it did not depend on that kind of investment.

But what shape the AIS rejuvenation will take is expected to become clearer in the coming weeks, including the future of Canberra Stadium.

Mr Barr said that the planning reform project would be crucial to the ACT providing the 30,000 extra homes needed over the next five years for a population headed towards 500,000 by 2027.

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He repeated his description of gentle urbanism, not just to provide quantity but a more diverse and affordable mix of dwellings – the missing middle – in established suburbs, where many people want to live but are currently priced out of.

“There is a way to do this to address the legitimate concerns for people about neighbourhoods changing dramatically, but at the same time offer more product and a house size of 100 to 150 square metres,” Mr Barr said.

The Chief Minister also painted a picture of a strong and growing ACT economy with low unemployment and a stronger fiscal position aided by a greater share of GST revenue due to its increased population.

“Strong population growth over recent years, combined with the return of international students and migrants, will further support the ongoing resilience of the ACT economy,” he said.

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Gregg Heldon8:50 am 01 Aug 23

Paraphrasing the speech
I’ve put all my financial eggs into light rail and expanding Canberra Hospital by building buildings that I am not going to fully staff, and offer services with, to the detriment of everything else, infrastructure wise in the ACT.
We’re broke and, Comrade Anthony, I need your help to bail me out because, even though I’ve chucked all the public housing tenants out to replace them with ratepayers, and created lots of wind tunnels along Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue and a different type of housing estate in the town centres, I’ve used all that money and I don’t know how.
I mean, I haven’t built a road in a couple of years and I don’t think teachers, first responders and nurses salaries have increased for awhile so I’m not sure where all this extra money has gone.
Please help Uncle Anthony.
Yours sincerely
Andrew (and Shane)

This Government has its priorities all wrong. Stop spending billions on a tram and fix our health services.

Leon Arundell8:45 pm 13 May 23

It’s a very powerful argument for bus rapid transit, which according to the ACT government offers half a billion dollars greater net benefits than light rail stage 2, and will be ten minutes faster.

phillipbusinesscommunity1:50 pm 20 Mar 23

The Phillip Business Community have repeatedly called for 2B to happen – and to add that it should be extended to the intersection of Athlon and Mawson drives to accommodate the 3 schools that use that bus stop (that’s why our thoughts are in the Green/Labor power sharing agreement).

But we also call on the ACT Government to include a vision for a Basketball + Other Sports (i.e. Dancing, Martial Arts, etc) facility opposite Shea St along Athlon Drive and make it a mini-sports complex to support Woden. Why? Because there is nothing in Woden any more for sport.

So TRAM + SPORT along Athlon Drive, it’s a flat piece of track and it makes sense for Woden.

Id the Canberra Liberals were to support Light Rail AND a new Stadium they would have my vote back in a trice. These are both long term projects that will service Canberra for the next 40-50 years.
Over to you Mrs Lee.

So he’s admitting the government has dropped the ball on essential services, can’t afford the stupid tram, throws in a furphy about the proposed one extra stop at St Andrews servicing 50,000+ extra staff, and wants us to trust his planning?!

As Daryll Kerrigan would say, “tell ‘im he’s dreamin”

Don’t mention the debt, I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

Net debt of $10 billion by 2025-26, 14 years straight of net deficit by 2025-26, and an annual interest bill of $517 million by 2025-26. Plus the broken commitment in the Labor-Greens agreement “The parties confirm their commitment to fiscal responsibility and the maintenance of a balanced budget through the economic cycle.”

Well done Andrew, you delivered the State of the Territory address without a mention.

“The ACT would talk to the Albanese Government over the next 12 to 18 months about partnering with the Territory on light rail stage 2B across the lake to Woden.” Seems to be the way of the ACT Govt in infrastructure projects – let’s talk forever, then maybe start work.

“Mr Barr said that if the Federal Government continued increasing employment in the National Triangle, it could not keep building $200 to 300 million car parks.” How can anyone take the Chief Minister seriously when he comes out with lines like this?? Yeah sure the carparks in buildings are the most expensive part.

Most major infrastructure projects are long talk fests before they are built. It’s the way things work.
It’s like in our own lives – you talk about building a house longer than it takes to actually build in most cases… When it comes to big projects, there’s more people involved so there’s more discussion.

Stephen Saunders5:12 am 17 Mar 23

Of course Albanese should be a partner. It’s he who’s pushing Canberra population close to 800,000 by 2033, with little concern for the consequences. We don’t want the Coppins’ Crossing situation, where 21st century population overload meets a 19th century causeway.

HiddenDragon8:27 pm 16 Mar 23

Don’t seem to recall hearing all these potential excuses and conditionality about light rail 2A and 2B at the time of the 2020 ACT election – clearly it’s all Putin’s fault.

Here in the ACT, and elsewhere in Australia, the wheels (no pun intended) are starting to come off the Big Australia model of growth and development – with governments playing a constant game of debt-funded catch-up in a futile attempt to provide costly services and infrastructure for a rate of population growth which is well into the realms of diminishing returns.

Barr commited to light rail, said there would be many legs when all he wanted was just one.
He’s now dumping it on the Commonwealth to clean up the mess.

When Fed Labor turns up their nose at something trying to come though the back door, Barr will turn around and say “Hey i tried” but then start on the next inner North pet project.

Why is a growing population not a concern for climate change but plastics water carbon is?

One has to wait and see how long this stays on the federal cards if they can stall it long enough they can blame Fed Liberals.

Barr is already blaming them for all the things he cut to fund stage 1.

Whilst I’m entirely on board with a big Canberra (a million or more, thanks) try as I might, I cannot find any reference that my favourite PM this century is pushing for a Canberra of 800k by 2033, or that he has waded into any kind if debate about Canberra’s population. It would he appreciated if you could provide a link to confirm your assertion. To paraphrase the kids, link or it didn’t happen.

If Mr Barr wants Federal funding for Light Rail, why doesn’t he just submit the robust business case that he has for the project to Infrastructure Australia for assessment under the priority program? I mean the project has a significantly positive cost benefit ratio that would justify the expenditure right?


“I don’t think it’s reasonable for this generation to be asked to pay upfront for assets that will be enjoyed for the century,”

Surely he didn’t say this with a straight face whilst expecting the whole of Canberra to pay for a vanity project that under their current program, most areas of Canberra won’t see for decades and for which significant windfall benefits accrue to private landholders along the route. Seems he’s very selective in his equity arguments.

Also LOL at expecting Federal funding, in other words, taxpayers in other jurisdictions, to pay for something they will never benefit from. Particularly so, when the project has no overall benefit to the nation nor can it be justified on any reasonable economic assessment.

Can you smell the pork?

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