STATE Infrastructure Minister Stephan Knoll has conceded the funding allocated for the Gawler rail line electrification and North-South Corridor projects in the federal budget will need to be prioritised, after lobby groups labelled the infrastructure commitments “misleading”.
The federal budget, released last Tuesday night, included a $220 million commitment for the Gawler rail line electrification, and $1.2 billion for the North-South Corridor (which will create a continuous transport corridor between Gawler and the south of Adelaide).
However, several industry lobby groups – including the RAA, South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy, South Australian Freight Council and Civil Contractors Federation South Australia – questioned why only $50 million had been included for the electrification in the forward estimates, which detail the Commonwealth’s spending plans for the next four years.
The forward estimates also didn’t contain any allocation for the North-South Corridor project and just $52 million of the promised $177 million for the project’s Regency-to-Pym stage – the final plank in the planned 47-kilometre non-stop superway between Gawler and the city.
Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher defended the budget figures last week, telling ABC Radio there had been “a bit of a misunderstanding of the processes”.
“What we state in the (forward estimates) is the estimate, and the best state of knowledge at this time, but it is routinely and regularly varied,” Mr Fletcher said.
“What it depends upon, ultimately, is the planning work the State Government does.
“It then needs to put that to the Commonwealth.
“We then reach an agreement per project on when it’s going to commence, what the milestones will be…we make our payments as a milestone is met, and all of that has to happen.”
Mr Knoll last week admitted to parliament “there is more work to be done to re-profile this money in line with the projects and the order of priorities as they exist”.
Speaking to The Bunyip afterwards, he said the State Government has committed $2 million to quickly finish the business cases for the funded North-South Corridor projects that weren’t yet shovel-ready.
“Once we’ve done our homework and these projects are shovel-ready, we can then begin discussions with the Federal Government about re-profiling the funding to deliver these projects as soon as possible, and that includes the electrification of the Gawler line,” he said.
“Make no mistake, the Federal Government’s $1.8 billion infrastructure commitment is unequivocally good news for South Australia.”