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Bigger budgets for Australia's Smart Cities

Australia is looking towards a future of ‘smart cities’ with utopian 30-minute commutes and integrated communities. However, building this infrastructure is becoming an increasingly complex task – and so is finding the funding for it.

Within the Australian engineering industry, we’re seeing large-scale infrastructure investments, such as Melbourne Metro, the Western Sydney Infrastructure Plan, Inland Rail and Northern Australian Roads. While these projects are a great step in the right direction, more needs to be done to ensure Australia can keep up with public demands.

The Australian Government’s 2016-17 Budget indicates that, in order to sustainably invest in necessary infrastructure, private businesses need to play an innovative role in our new engineering economy.

Building smarter cities

The Australian Government’s dedication to an ‘innovation economy’ will need to lie on the back of strong infrastructure. In order to build the cities of the future – smart cities with “good mass transit, good recognition, clean air, green spaces” – the Turnbull Government announced a series of concessional loans and local government grants.

However, with a budget in deficit, taxpayer dollars just aren’t enough to engineer the future Australians dream of. To account for this lack of funding, the government is looking towards innovative financing solutions within the private sector. With infrastructure planning now in the hands of local governments and private investors, we could see the beginning of an engineering-based economy.

Growing debt for smaller states

While these changes will likely make for better development in Victoria and NSW – both states are already undergoing similar financing programs for their infrastructure projects. This debt may be a burden for states such as Queensland, which doesn’t have the same investment in infrastructure as Victoria or NSW. A strong partnership between government and these projects is critical to project success.

The Australian Government’s hope is that Smart City projects will create more mobile and innovative communities, which will in turn attract talent and create jobs. And these changes are definitely a positive thing for the engineering industry, which will undoubtedly see a boom as new policy comes into play.

While more infrastructure development is a positive thing for Australia’s engineering economy, it should also be coupled with sustainability in mind.

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