Attitude shift needed on funding

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Property Council of Australia executive director Joe Lenzo say state and federal governments should explore new funding sources.
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam and Property Council of Australia executive director Joe Lenzo say state and federal governments should explore new funding sources.

Property Council of WA executive director Joe Lenzo said developers, home designers and the WA Greens were jointly lobbying governments to achieve change in transport and housing.

However, a fortnight ago, Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott said Canberra had no role funding suburban trains, after his Liberal counterpart, Premier Colin Barnett, announced in the State Election that the $1.8 billion MAX light rail would link Mirrabooka, Perth, Victoria Park and Nedlands by 2018, and the $1.9 billion CBD-airport rail link.

‘If there’s a change of (Federal) Government then that closes up Barnett’s and our light rail proposals,’ WA Greens Senator Scott Ludlam said.

WA Greens, the Property Council of WA and the Australian Urban Design Research Centre co-authored February’s Transforming Perth report that estimates 200km of light rail would cost $30 million a kilometre in Perth by 2029.

Senator Ludlam said an initiative using bonds to pay for urban blight projects in the US showed how governments could borrow against increases in property values to pay for light rail in corridors with high land values, such as along Thomas Street to the University of WA.

Mr Lenzo said alternative funding sources included an urban infrastructure fund, infrastructure bonds and asset-backed securities to pay for light rail, alongside which council members could build apartments.

‘They are long term infrastructure investments and therefore do not have to be paid for up front by tax revenue,’ he said.

‘You, as a mum or dad investor can buy these bonds and in return get a tax benefit from the revenue gained from it.’

Mr Lenzo said Mr Barnett needed to create a WA equivalent of Infrastructure Australia (IA) where Canberra backs nationally significant road and rail projects.

Asked if Mr Abbott would change his views of paying for suburban rail, his spokesman said announcements about ‘vital infrastructure’ in WA would be made closer to the September 9 election, but that federal governments did not traditionally fund commuter transport.

The WA Planning Department is expected to be briefed on the report and the funding alternatives next week.