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The truth about Rebuild NSW

By Robert Gibbons - posted Monday, 19 June 2017

There are daily Parliamentary and media debates about such commitments as the Inland Rail Bridge, urban metro and road works including tunnels (in most cities), and the adequacy of NDIS budgets. These amount to the usual good-governance challenge of using available funds wisely, and seeking more funds only when justified.

The most famous urban program in Australia now is the NSW Government's North West to CBD and South West Metro: a stated cost $23 billion and with uncalculated consequential damage to the Bradfield rail lines that the Metro duplicates.

It was one of the signature features of the "con job" ("stench", "fiasco" in then Coalition Premier O'Farrell's words) that the successive Labor metromeisters in the 2000s foisted on NSW that their favoured projects were "fully funded".


The Bairdian Governments made much of the $20 billion Restart NSW allocation which "is only possible by releasing capital locked up in the leased electricity network businesses (poles and wires)" that would help metros, hospitals, schools, water security and regions affected by mining and even the Zoo to improve their competitiveness and productivity. The Overview of the 2016 Budget stated that the disposition would be:

  • $8.9 billion to urban public transport
  • $6 billion in total for regional works
  • $2.4 billion for urban roads
  • $1 billion each for water, education and health
  • $0.1 billion for corridor reservation

Total $20 billion

Public references clearly implied that the proceeds from privatisation of poles and wires would allow the Metro's tunnel under the Harbour and extension to Bankstown. Baird's press release of 11 June '14 said this:

The NSW Government will unlock $20 billion in infrastructure funding, including $6 billion for regional NSW, by undertaking a long-term lease ... For Sydney, the centrepiece will be a new Sydney Rapid Transit line, including a second harbour rail crossing and extending the NW Rail Link through the CBD and beyond to Bankstown.

The PR of the following 4 June '15 included these words:


Sydney's much-needed second harbour rail crossing will become a reality now that funding has been secured for the NSW Government's $20 billion Rebuilding NSW plan ... this is a mega congestion busting project ...".

We'll come back to that $20 billion. What is the situation with the "con job": has Labor's recrudesced along with their Metro lines? or is there a new standard of accountability and efficiency (as announced when Restart and Rebuilding were created)?

The Metro bill alone, excluding WestConnex and the many associated road works including at least three new road tunnels, and trams, amounts to $9 billion from the NW to the tunnel, and $14 billion to Bankstown. That sub-total of $23 billion has to have $6 billion added to regions (not yet a reality), making a for-example and totally minimum total, for veracity, of $29 billion.

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About the Author

Robert Gibbons started urban studies at Sydney University in 1971 and has done major studies of Sydney, Chicago, world cities' performance indicators, regional infrastructure financing, and urban history. He has published major pieces on the failure of trams in Sydney, on the "improvement generation" in Sydney, and has two books in readiness for publication, Thank God for the Plague, Sydney 1900 to 1912 and Sydney's Stumbles. He has been Exec Director Planning in NSW DOT, General Manager of Newcastle City, director of AIUS NSW and advisor to several premiers and senior ministers.

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