Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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Why is infrastructure so challenging for Queensland

Infrastructure plays a crucial role in determining the strength of current and future economic growth in Queensland. However the roll out of infrastructure ahead of or even on the curve of requirement has proved profoundly challenging for all three tiers of government and successive governments.

There are three main reasons for this: higher economic growth; higher population growth; coupled with a significantly greater geographical area and decentralised population and economy. QEAS takes a look at these drivers.

Queensland has undoubtedly been one of Australia’s success stories in terms of its economic growth only being surpassed by Western Australia over the past 25 years.  Queensland’s gross state product has grown by nearly 170 per cent to now be a $327 billion economy in 2016-17 prices.  This compares to national growth over the same period of 125 per cent.  Growth in recent years for the Sunshine State has been somewhat subdued but Queensland Government estimates have growth increasing from 1.8 per cent in 2016-17 to 2.75 per cent in 2017-18 and 3.0 per cent in 2018-19.  Whilst these forecasts remain under the 25 year long term average of 4 per cent (3.3 per cent nationally) the anticipated economic growth will require continuing higher levels of infrastructure renewal and capacity than at present.

Over the past 25 years Queensland’s population growth has grown by 63 per cent significantly above the national rate of 40.7 per cent and has been the highest of all States. Population flows towards economic and employment opportunity and as our economy has grown generating jobs our population has swelled. Furthermore forecasted population over the next 25 years indicates that Queensland’s population will continue to grow well above the national average giving rise to continuing higher levels of infrastructure investment.  Depending upon growth scenario (Series A: high and Series B: moderate) ABS estimates Queensland’s population to grow by between 48.1 to 62.5 per cent and compares to the national average of between 39.9 to 50.8 per cent.

The third reason why infrastructure has proved so challenging for Queensland relates to the geographic size of our State coupled with our decentralised population and resulting lower population densities.  The size of the challenge for the three tiers of Government is evidenced in the following table.  In short the land area, regional populations, road network, rail network, number of airports, number of ports, dams, water pipelines, water treatment plants and length of transmission and distribution electricity networks necessitate a significant and higher level of investment historically, currently and into the future.

In summary, in order for the Sunshine State to continue to grow and prosper unhindered, it will be essential that not only new infrastructure investment occurs but better cooperation, planning, construction and maintenance also occurs across all three tiers of government.

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