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Council endorses new infrastructure plan while facing skyrocketing costs

Ipswich’s future population and trunk infrastructure needs have been reviewed and updated, forecasting a slightly slower than anticipated population growth and a challenge in funding future infrastructure.

The council’s draft Local Government Infrastructure Plan (LGIP) is a set of documents defining where, when and how council plans to establish new trunk roads, public parks and land for community facilities across the local government area over the next 25 years.

Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said the draft LGIP was prepared in the face of rising construction costs post-COVID and was based on updated population growth calculations that put Ipswich’s annual growth at 3.3 per cent.

“Ipswich has experienced enormous growth in the past decade, and we anticipate further rapid growth into the future,” Mayor Harding said.

“The estimated location and timeframes for future trunk infrastructure in this new LGIP were developed based on updated population forecasts from Council’s new Ipswich Population Modeller.

“This updated model predicts annual population growth closer to 3.3 per cent in the years ahead, rather than the 5 per cent previously forecast.

“The new LGIP identifies an estimated future population of 453,875 at 2041 and 533,802 at 2046 for Ipswich.

“This is lower than the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office population projection forecast of 557,649 at 2041 (2018 Medium Series).

“This will likely come as a relief for residents as council continues to advocate to its Federal and State counterparts for critical public transport and trunk infrastructure to support our city and continue its growth sustainably.

“Even at 3.3 per cent annual population growth, Ipswich remains the state’s fastest-growing city and we must plan future infrastructure responsibly to ensure all our residents can live, work and play across Ipswich.”

Growth, Infrastructure and Waste Committee Deputy Chairperson Councillor Paul Tully said the new draft LGIP was about taking a clear-eyed look at the future cost of providing trunk infrastructure across the city.

“This new LGIP is one of the first prepared for any south-east Queensland council post-COVID, and the first to seriously factor in the skyrocketing costs of construction and supply,” Cr Tully said.

“On average, this has increased construction costs by at least 30 per cent.

“The proposed LGIP presents a sustainability ratio that is significantly lower than the current LGIP.

“The reality is that over the life of the LGIP, a large proportion of its infrastructure costs will need to be sourced outside of developer infrastructure contributions.

“This new LGIP should be a conversation starter about how councils – not just Ipswich, but across the state – can and should fund and construct key infrastructure.

“The full required network outlined in the draft LGIP can be funded through council’s infrastructure charges, rates and borrowings – however, this will be a challenge to finance and manage with other investment and spending priorities.”

A report presented to council on Thursday further noted that while the LGIP focused on future trunk roads, public parks and land for community facilities, it also factored in and modelled increased public transport provision and utilisation over time.

However, the report noted that without strong investment from the State Government in Ipswich’s public transport, local infrastructure delivery will struggle to fill this gap and meet demand.

In September 2022, councillors declared a bus network review a regionally significant priority, increasing their calls on the State Government to actively address public transport shortfalls in the city.

The draft LGIP including revised population projections was considered and endorsed by all councillors in the March council meeting to progress to State interest review.

Public consultation on the proposed new LGIP will open later this year following State Government endorsement.

“This report makes for sobering reading about how hard it is in a post-COVID world for councils to fund complex infrastructure needs for a sustainable future,” Mayor Harding said.

“We need to think clearly about how we fund infrastructure, what our priorities are, and listen closely to the community about their expectations and priorities for our beautiful city.”

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