More than eight in 10 businesses surveyed want to see Queensland adopt a New South Wales-style Construction Action Plan.
More than eight in 10 businesses surveyed want to see Queensland adopt a New South Wales-style Construction Action Plan.

Infrastructure confidence rises, with a catch

CONFIDENCE is rising in Queensland's infrastructure industry, with over half of firms expecting to be busier in the next six months.

Two years of low activity were turned around with a 58 per cent increase in major projects work during 2017-18, says the latest Spotlight Survey, to be released today by the Infrastructure Association of Queensland.

And 57 per cent of businesses in the sector expect things to continue to strengthen for the rest of this year, with just under half anticipating boosting staff numbers.

"Fully funded projects like Cross River Rail, Inland Rail and Brisbane Metro are now reaching the market, driving tender activity and helping attract Queensland professionals back to their home state," IAQ chief executive Steve Abson said.

Despite that, however, three-quarters of companies in the exclusive survey expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of state and federal governments in planning and delivering projects, especially when it comes to working together.

"On the one hand, we're seeing industry give governments a pat on the back for getting on with funding their projects," Mr Abson said.

"Yet on the other, it's saying that if you just sat down together more often and prioritised around a common long-term plan, we could see much more bang for taxpayer buck."

The industry was a big supporter of the push towards a City Deal agreement between federal, state and local government in southeast Queensland to co-ordinate a major projects strategy.

Cranes on Brisbane’s skylines in recent years have been a barometer of infrastructure activity.
Cranes on Brisbane’s skylines in recent years have been a barometer of infrastructure activity.

And the IAQ is calling for the National Partnership Agreement to be reformed before next July's expiry to end squabbling between federal and state politicians over funding for initiatives such as the Beerburrum to Nambour rail upgrade.

"Like an M1 road package before it, there's now a gap in funding of $230 million for this critical rail link to the Sunshine Coast," Mr Abson said.

"This is because the feds will fund half of this $780 million project but the state wants it to stump up 80 per cent.

"Obviously Queensland companies asked to tender this major project can't do so with complete confidence when 30 per cent of the project is still unfunded."

Over eight in 10 businesses surveyed want to see Queensland adopt a New South Wales-style Construction Action Plan to provide the private sector with more certainty over project pipelines and streamline bidding and contract procedures.

And there is concern among 42 per cent over the State Government's "Buy Queensland'' policy.

"Despite enhancements coming into immediate effect on projects valued over $100 million, industry is still unclear on how procurement processes will be affected," Mr Abson said.

"Consortiums committing huge sums to bid for multibillion-dollar government projects deserve certainty on how their tenders will be ranked against 'best practice' safety and industrial relations criteria."