Much has changed in the five years since we released Victoria’s first 30-year infrastructure strategy, including two significant events. Victoria endured the 2019–20 summer bushfires, which exacted heavy tolls on the people, communities, ecologies and infrastructure it affected. Victoria is also enduring and responding to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both events showed the resilience of Victorians, and their ability to rapidly change their behaviour to support each other through challenges.
In the last five years, the Victorian Government committed to Victoria’s largest infrastructure program, significantly raising investment in infrastructure. It also announced many policy changes, including release of its revised metropolitan planning strategy, Plan Melbourne, outlining Melbourne’s planned growth trajectory to 2050, and setting a new target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in the Climate Change Act 2017. These crises and policy decisions show that infrastructure needs, and context, can evolve rapidly, and the value of regularly reviewing and updating infrastructure plans. This strategy deliberately revises many recommendations we have made previously and adds new recommendations considering Victoria’s changing circumstances. It retains a long-term view of Victoria’s infrastructure needs over the next 30 years, remembering that infrastructure lasts decades, and must meet immediate and future needs. Infrastructure is more than roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools. It underpins Victoria’s economic productivity, social equity and connectedness, and ecological impact. It can help reduce social disadvantage. This strategy focuses on Victoria’s future. We take existing Victorian Government projects, decisions and commitments as our starting point, and make recommendations about future decisions to be made. We also make decisions about how to maximise the benefits of existing commitments.
This strategy has 94 recommendations spanning many types of infrastructure policies, reforms and projects, and is based on extensive evidence, research and consultation.
We have grouped them thematically, assembling recommendations that work together to achieve a more prosperous, inclusive, and sustainable Victoria.
For each recommendation, we have produced a strategic estimate of its potential cost range, stipulated the recommended timing for delivery, and considered funding options for major policies, reforms and projects (see Appendix C of Volume 2). We have not prioritised some recommendations over others, and instead sought to present an integrated, interlinked, and interconnected set of recommendations to help achieve the strategy objectives. Different stakeholders can identify their own priorities, and addressing each theme requires different priority actions. We have also prepared regional summaries of the strategy, allowing each region to identify recommendations of special interest. Combined, the recommendations have a total capital cost of approximately $100 billion over 30 years. This is our best, central estimate of the capital cost of delivering this strategy, which was a consideration in developing it. This estimate does not include other ‘business as usual’ Victorian Government capital expenditure for purposes unrelated to the recommendations in this strategy.
Of the 94 strategy recommendations, 53 are for policy changes and reforms that help better use and manage demand on infrastructure. The remaining 41 recommendations involve Victorian Government infrastructure capital investment. The Victorian Government is ultimately responsible for prioritising infrastructure spending according to Victoria’s prevailing financial position and broader fiscal policy settings.
This strategy has 94 recommendations spanning many types of infrastructure policies, reforms and projects, and based on extensive evidence, research and consultation.
Confront long-term challenges
Victoria’s recent experiences underline that future events are uncertain. Long-term strategy must be adaptable and resilient, able to adeptly change and recalibrate in different circumstances, while confronting long-term challenges. A changing climate means infrastructure must be resilient to new climatic conditions, and a 2050 net zero emissions target refocuses Victoria’s infrastructure needs to support transitioning away from traditional fuel sources. New, emerging technologies can radically alter infrastructure demand and give governments new tools to manage it. Global health, economic and geopolitical shocks will affect Victoria and it must keep options to respond. For instance, international trade bans on recyclable materials have disrupted Victoria’s recycling and resource recovery industries, creating an opportunity to build a more circular economy.
Manage urban change
A decade of rapid population growth to 2020 has strained Victoria’s infrastructure, creating congestion and shortfalls. The COVID-19 pandemic has paused population growth, providing an opportunity to ensure systems and policies are in place to better manage future population growth. This includes better integrating Victoria’s land use and infrastructure planning to guide urban development in the most appropriate locations, providing the right infrastructure at the right time. Suitable and well-located areas in established parts of Melbourne and regional cities can accommodate more new homes, helping maximise use of existing infrastructure and services. Reforms can help manage transport demand to make better use of existing and new transport infrastructure by using pricing to help people make more informed choices about when and how they travel. Victoria can better maintain and adapt its existing economic, social and community infrastructure to lengthen its lifespan and keep it fit for contemporary conditions.
Harness infrastructure for productivity and growth
Managing demand and achieving maximum efficiency from existing infrastructure can improve the productivity and effectiveness of the infrastructure Victoria already has. But it will not meet all infrastructure needs for a productive and equitable state, especially as population growth returns. Victoria will require some new major transport projects, and new social and environmental infrastructure to support rapidly growing communities and reduce disadvantage. Particularly when managing fiscal constraints, governments must carefully select infrastructure projects to deliver maximum benefits to the community, considering all options, and ensuring they perform under different future scenarios. Selecting the right infrastructure at the right time can support the productivity of Victoria’s economy, prepare for future needs, and ensure people can access the infrastructure and services they need for their social and economic wellbeing. The Victorian Government should conduct detailed feasibility studies and business cases before announcing new projects, to ensure their investments serve Victoria best.
Develop regional Victoria
Developing Victoria’s regions is more than simply generating construction activity. Regional development encompasses economic and community development. Infrastructure can support a region’s competitive strengths, help adapt to economic change, and address socioeconomic disadvantage for some of Victoria’s most vulnerable communities. Building connectivity, especially between businesses and markets, can help Victoria’s regions develop. Infrastructure can also help strengthen wellbeing in regional Victoria by connecting people to essential services and resources at major life stages.
Victoria’s infrastructure is only one facet of the state’s economic performance, social outcomes and ecological sustainability, and cannot solve every problem alone. But combined with good governance, innovative and competitive businesses, strong public and social services, and a thriving community, infrastructure can help create a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable long-term future.