The Tasmanian Government has announced an extension of its current infrastructure commitment to $1.8 billion over the next two years.
“It brings forward government expenditure, it will stimulate investment in the private sector, it will strengthen and underpin the economy and it will create thousands of jobs,” said Premier Peter Gutwein today.
He said the best way to get the budget back on track and grow business confidence and create jobs is to grow the economy.
“I have said that the hallmarks of this government will be one of compassion, conviction and opportunity, and never before has that been more important as we rally together to build our way out of coronavirus,” he stated.
The centrepiece of the package promises 2300 new dwellings, including social and affordable houses across the state.
“And there’s no better place in the country right now to build a house,” the Premier said, “with our state-expanded First Home Owners funding of $20,000 for any owner occupier to build a house, combined with the Federal Government’s injection of $25,000 meaning there’s a massive $45,000 available, regardless of if it’s your first or your tenth house.”
He said the spending commitment also ‘secures and fast-tracks’ projects across community infrastructure, roads, irrigation and other essential infrastructure.
Announced details are:
Housing (delivering a total construction value of est. $792 million)
- 2295 new dwellings, including social and affordable houses
- $100 million to deliver an additional 1000 new social houses, in partnership with Community Housing Providers.
- $24 million in additional and brought-forward funding for 220 houses under the Affordable Housing Strategy.
- Improving the HomeShare program to revise eligibility thresholds, helping to reduce the initial cost of buying a house and the monthly cost of owning it. It is estimated uptake would result in 150 home purchases, including 75 new builds over two years.
- $20 million to support the delivery of 1000 homes by extending the successful $20,000 First Home Owners Grant initiative to all Owner Occupier build applications for 2020. This means if you contract to build a house this year, you will receive a $20,000 grant, whether it’s your first home or not. Detailed guidelines and eligibility criteria will be available on Tuesday 9 June.
Roads and Irrigation infrastructure (delivering a construction value of est $55 million)
- $40 million for state road safety upgrades in 2020-21 and 2021-22 and the bringing forward of $40 million through an accelerated procurement tender process.
- The first tranche of projects under this package are now out to market, including safety upgrades on Highland Lakes Road at the ‘Pub with No Beer’ corner, improved turning facilities on the Bass Highway at Boat Harbour, and road widening and improved turning facilities on the Arthur Highway at Eaglehawk Neck.
- A further nine projects will be put to market under this process and will include bridge strengthening works, the upgrade of Binalong Bay Road, the Bruny Island landside infrastructure, and road widening works on Midland Highway between Powranna and Tunbridge.
- $378 million roads budget next financial year already includes other significant projects, such as the new Hobart Airport interchange, park and ride facilities in Kingborough, the West Tamar Highway upgrades and the start of the $100 million Bass Highway upgrades with the Boat Harbour turnoff. These projects are all on track to start later this year.
- $15 million to prioritise the $28.51 million Don Irrigation scheme and to meet the increased demand for Tasmania’s next five irrigation schemes. The Don Irrigation scheme is expected to commence construction early 2021 and deliver 130 direct and indirect jobs.
Essential Services (with a total construction value of est $42.1 million)
- An additional $10 million to upgrade regional health centres and ambulance facilities.
- $7 million will be invested to undertake refurbishments to the Launceston Police Station.
- $3.5 million will be invested in a new Emergency Services State Operations Centre.
- $8.7 million will be provided to upgrade the final 29 Police Houses across the state.
- $5.9 million of the $15 million Burnie Court upgrade will be brought forward.
- $7 million is being provided for Child and Family Learning centres as part of the $28 million investment. This includes five of the six committed centres across the state, including East Tamar, Waratah Wynyard, Glenorchy, Kingborough and West Ulverstone. Sorell will begin construction in 2022-23 in line with the $25 million redevelopment of Sorell School.
Community Infrastructure (total construction value of est $167.5 million)
- $68.5 million will be provided for the upgrade of the Derwent Entertainment Centre, including $20 million for a community four court multisport facility. Subject to a final agreement on terms being reached, the upgraded DEC will host a Tasmanian National Basketball League team and NBL games.
- $12 million will be provided for the Wynyard Coastal Pathway between Cooee and Wynyard.
- An additional $20 million for refurbishments to public buildings and other publicly owned assets has been allocated. This funding is in addition to the $50 million that was brought forward and announced as part of the government’s initial economic and social support measures. This $70 million Program will continue to provide support for regional employment and trades.
- $10 million is being provided for Improving the Playing Field, enabling grants for sporting organisations and clubs for facility and amenity upgrades. Grants of between $25,000 and $250,000 will be available.
- $4 million will be provided for the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens for new infrastructure and upgrades to existing infrastructure to meet growing visitor numbers.
- Investment of $3 million towards a new visitor centre for the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart. This project has already received Heritage Council and Hobart City Council approvals.
RBF $200 million Tasmanian Economic and Social Investment Fund (Total construction value of $200 million)
- $200m of $2.1Billion in the Retirement Benefits Fund is going to be brought back for investment in Tasmania.
- Treasury will implement arrangements, whereby up to 10 per cent of the Fund’s investments will be invested in Tasmania and the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council will consider options to provide an economic and social return for the state.
- The fund will be used to identify suitable investments outside of government in the private sector that can be supported across the economy to increase economic activity, create jobs and strengthen social outcomes.
Education and Skills (total construction value of est $10.5 million)
- An additional $7 million will be provided to develop the $14 million Trades and Water Centre of Excellence. This will skill and train Tasmanians for local jobs in the construction and civil contracting industries, including water and sewerage. The Centre will have its own Industry-based Board, to ensure operations and training align with the skill needs of employers.
- $3.5 million will be brought forward to commence works on the Devonport High School as part of the $10.5 million major redevelopment.
“These are challenging times, but now is not the time to sit idle, now is the time to unleash the greatest stimulus program we can, to kick-start the recovery process and help get Tasmania back on track and back in business,” he concluded.
Meanwhile Minister for Education and Training Jeremy Rockliff said the new TasTAFE Trades and Water Centre of Excellence will ensure Tasmania has the skilled workers it needs to rebuild the economy.
The centre will be based at TasTAFE’s Clarence campus and focus on training Tasmanians in the construction and civil contracting industries, including the water and sewerage infrastructure sector. “Training in plumbing, refrigeration and air-conditioning will be offered, and it is great to announce the centre will now be delivering hydrogen, Tasmania Fire Service and wastewater system training once complete,” he said.
It will include a purpose-built workshop and allow for double the student capacity in certificate and diploma level qualifications, plus capacity to offer 21 new industry short courses focused on continuing professional development.
Shelter Tas said they were very supportive of the investment of an additional $100M in ‘much-needed social housing’. “Building social housing provides both an economic boost and a public good. Tasmania has shown great leadership by including social housing in the post-COVID economic stimulus,” Shelter Tas CEO Pattie Chugg said.
The Premier’s announcement of increased housing investment and expansion of the HomeShare program was welcomed by the Greens. “The construction industry is in desperate need of support, and building new houses is the best bang for public stimulus,” said Greens Leader and Housing spokesperson Cassy O’Connor. “That’s why the Greens have been so vocal on a housing led recovery, and we welcome the Premier understanding an investment in housing is an investment in Tasmania’s people.”
She indicated that after “years of neglect under the Hodgman government”, the state has an affordable housing shortfall of an estimated 11 000 homes. “Tasmania’s recovery from COVID-19 is a unique opportunity to tackle the intergenerational inequality that has crippled far too many Tasmanians for decades,” O’Connor said.
Labor leader Rebecca White said the infrastructure package has missed an opportunity to build a better Tasmania.
“Coming out of this crisis the government had a real opportunity to reshape Tasmania, allowing everyone to share in the benefits of a rebuilt economy,” White said. “But while today’s announcement is welcome, the opportunity to make improvements in the quality of life for all Tasmanians has been overlooked. What’s missing in today’s announcement is the vision for a better, fairer, more inclusive Tasmanian economy.”
She pointed to the comments of independent economist Saul Eslake who warned the government yesterday that an increased construction spend would not necessarily help those hardest hit by COVID-19 job losses – women and young people – and called for long-term support to the tourism, hospitality and arts sectors.
“Since the start of this pandemic, more than 20,000 Tasmanians have lost their jobs and thousands have had their hours reduced,” White said. “Government assistance for industry must be tied to businesses building a better framework of economic security for workers. Without job security the decisions workers make on a daily basis on where and how they spend their money in our economy will be severely restricted. Job security builds consumer confidence, it builds a stronger economy.”
Shadow Minister for TAFE, University and Skills Michelle O’Byrne said the Liberal government must address Tasmania’s skills shortage if its infrastructure program is to succeed “The Liberals are good at making record announcements, but their record of delivery is poor,” she said.
“Before the pandemic, employers were crying out for skilled workers, with many resorting to flying skilled workers in to the state and data from the Productivity Commission showing they were increasingly dissatisfied with the training system. As we start coming out the other side of the COVID-19 crisis, this shortage must be addressed, along with the training deficiencies.”
O’Byrne said the solution was to upskill workers, retrain those who have lost work as a result of the pandemic and provide pathways for young school leavers.