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BrisConnections + infrastructure development « Previous | |Next »
April 16, 2009

BrisConnections, it is fair to say, is yet another example of the disaster that arises from private public partnerships to build urban infrastructure. Why so? What explanations are available. One general argument is that the problem arises from incompetent state governments not the market failure per se. Thus Michael Bounds in The Australian says that:

The BrisConnections Airport Link in Brisbane is the latest casualty of a failure of responsible state governance of infrastructure development. Under the Airport Link funding model the, mostly small, shareholders are obliged to pay a further $2 on shares that have now fallen from $1 in value to 1c. They are understandably reluctant to pay. Anna Bligh remains silent about this elephant in the city.

Isn't this a failure of the Macquarie model of financing infrastructure as distinct from just being a problem of state governance? Why should the state be held totally responsible for the way that Macquarie set up the financing within a neo-liberal mode of governance?

Deregulation has devolved management down to the management of individual developments resulting in conflicts of interest and a regulatory vacuum in relation to both infrastructure development and the quality of life in new medium density developments associated with the rapid transformation of our economy to a service sector driven economy.

There been a shift away from the neo-liberal mode of governance to one based on state intervention as a result of the fallout from the global financial crisis? Bounds, who is an Australian sociologist and Associate Professor in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Sydney, uses the BrisConnections example and the cross-city tunnel under Sydney's CBD to argue that state government's should not be trusted with infrastructure development as opposed to the neo-liberal mode of governance. He argues thus:

The federal Government, through the Building Australia infrastructure fund is about to give $12.5billion to the states for infrastructure development. When the leaders of government are routinely blaming the banks and finance houses for the global financial crisis, the answer is to pour money into infrastructure.State governments have proven themselves singularly inefficient in managing the development and financing of infrastructure yet they are about to be showered with billions of dollars and an instruction to spend it as quickly as possible.

He has a point in that the early reports on state bids to the commonwealth infrastructure fund were that bids were so ill considered as to be unacceptable. The Infrastructure Australia Committee has formed its priority list for funding state projects and has produced a checklist of minimum information to be provided.

Bounds in his recent Urban Social Theory: City, Self, and Society is a proponent of the new urbanism. This is a movement that confronts the contemporary problems that beset our cities: problems of urban sprawl, crime, environmental degradation and alienation through the promotion and creation, and restoration of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, (and) mixed-use communities that include the housing, work places, shops, entertainment, schools, parks, and civic facilities that are essential to the daily lives of the residents.

Unlike the free market advocates Bounds is not arguing for the market to replace state government within a regulator framework. His concern is that:

we should be hearing proposals for the federal Government to monitor the performance of states in the financing and implementation of infrastructure projects. There should be no impediment to establishing an independent authority to report on the financial engineering and realisation of development targets on such proposals.Without an auditing process, on the basis of experience taxpayers can expect their $12.5billion may well be spent without a successful outcome...

He has a legitimate point.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:19 AM | | Comments (4)


isn't the quality of life in new medium density developments associated with the rapid transformation of our economy to a service sector driven economy associated with the process of gentrification’ ---- the residential redevelopment of a brown field site and its repopulation by largely middle class, that is, tertiary educated and service industry employed workers and their families?

urban sociologists tell us that there is a second wave gentrification process taking place that is different from the early phase of gentrification That earlier one typically involved the recycling of dwellings of character and the colonization of traditional working class areas by an emergent new middle class in the mid to late twentieth century.

The second wave of gentrification is:
• state and developer led
• involves new medium to high density housing on redeveloped sites
• creates a more diverse tenure and demographic mix than first wave gentrification.

It is clearly happening in Adelaide.

The second wave of gentrification is connected to the growth of “urban cultural economy”. It is in the inner city places where cultural insight, imagination and originality are generated by the postmodern economic production system.

Creative small firms are concentrating not in the rural exurbia of silicon valley but in the gentrifying inner areas of the city. The social nature of these economies is significant and there is no clear demarcation between work and social life as work continues in the coffee houses, bars and restaurants.

The intermingling of artisan designers and other cultural industry workers in the unique environment of inner cities with heritage values, museums, parks and complementary institutions such as colleges of art and design provide an institutional network for the New Economy.

so the creative inner city types of the second wave of gentrification are seeking diversity and not expecting to find community?