PIE Solutions recently provided a submission to the Planning Institute of Australia on its draft Position Statement on Infrastructure and its Funding. It is heartening to see the PIA give these important and topical issues the recognition they deserve and we welcome the release of the draft position statement. Our submission is provided below and we would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

PIE Solutions believes that infrastructure is fundamental to the liveability of our cities and towns and for achieving a productive and growing economy. Recognition that infrastructure planning and funding should be an integral part of land-use planning is essential to the achievement of these outcomes.

Australia’s population is forecast to grow from 24 million in 2016 to 30 million in 2031 and will drive a significant rise in the demand for infrastructure. With almost three quarters of that growth projected to occur in the four largest capital cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, a significant amount of the new infrastructure investment will be required within these centres to maintain their liveability.

Governments at all levels are already facing significant challenges when it comes to funding the delivery of new infrastructure. Given the high cost of providing infrastructure to meet our first world community expectations, it is important that the greatest value for money is achieved when making infrastructure investment decisions. Infrastructure must therefore be prudent (necessary) and also be the most efficient (cost-effective) way of delivering the desired outcome.

A key way of achieving efficient infrastructure delivery is through the integration of land-use and infrastructure planning. This means that land-use decisions are informed by knowledge of the type and cost of the infrastructure that is required to meet the community’s needs. It ensures that land-use decisions are made with full knowledge of the infrastructure funding implications and is also a driver of innovation to achieve more cost-effective infrastructure provision.

Whilst the concept of integrating land-use and infrastructure planning is widely accepted as best practice by the Australian planning profession, it has been difficult to achieve. A major barrier is that land use plans are often prepared and adopted before the infrastructure has been modelled and costed.

True integration requires a large degree of collaboration between strategic planners and infrastructure network planners to identify and evaluate the long-term costs and benefits (both financial and non-financial) of potential land use and infrastructure options. This will deliver more liveable and productive cities and towns.

Another barrier to integrating land-use and infrastructure planning is the time and resources it takes to prepare the infrastructure plans and undertake financial analysis for each land-use scenario. This can however be overcome through automation of time consuming processes using innovative technologies.

We also accept the importance of ensuring that all beneficiaries of infrastructure investment decisions are identified and contribute to the cost of the infrastructure. The fair apportionment of infrastructure costs ensures that adverse impacts on particular segments of the community or economy are avoided. We agree that this can be achieved through a mix of broad based taxes, direct user charging and value capture measures (such as betterment levies and property development charges). We also agree that the appropriate mix of measures used to fund infrastructure should be determined via a transparent process involving community, government and property owner stakeholders.

Whilst PIE Solutions are very pleased to see the above ideas recognised within the PIA position statement, we believe that the manner in which they are communicated could be improved. Recognising that the position statement on infrastructure encompasses a very wide scope of services provided at Federal, State and Local Government levels, we suggest that the position paper have fewer and more succinct statements of principle, and that statements which may be relevant to only one level of government are avoided unless the distinction is made clear. For example, is value capture relevant at the Federal Government level?

We also believe that the position paper would benefit from less ‘planner-speak’ and more plain English. Whilst it is accepted that infrastructure planning and charging and its integration with land use planning is complex, the use of plain English would more effectively convey the important matters of principle that the PIA is attempting to promote.