ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr has refused to answer questions on how Canberra’s light rail line will be funded, after it was revealed that a special rating zone for householders in the rail corridor is on the table, along with the possibility of a levy.
Mr Barr has refused to confirm the options, but has confirmed the government is looking to ''capture'' the increased value of homes on either side of the rail line, which will initially link Gungahlin to the city along Flemington Road and Northbourne Avenue, with work to begin in 2016.
The government expects a 25 per cent increase in home values in the corridor. It is not clear how wide the ''corridor'' will stretch, but it could be anything from about 400 metres each side of the rail line to one kilometre. If the government established a special rating zone, it could take advantage of the expected increase in land values.
This is just one of the options on the table to raise funds to pay for the biggest infrastructure project undertaken by the ACT government, expected to cost at least $614 million.
But asked by the Liberal Opposition about funding options on Tuesday, Mr Barr would say only that the government was considering ''a range of options''.
Asked when he would finalise funding, he said, ''In the fullness of time.''
When asked why it was still to be finalised, he said, ''We are investigating a variety of procurement options.''
And asked how much had already been spent on light rail, he told the Liberals to go and read previous budget papers.
Chief Minister Katy Gallagher was slightly more forthcoming on Monday, saying detailed work was being finalised with a meeting scheduled for the end of May, and a cabinet decision at the end of July.
The levy possibility had not been put to her, she said.
''I’m finding it a bit hard to rule in and rule out things that haven’t even crossed my desk,'' she said.
Ms Gallagher said she was still working on the early estimates of about $600 million and awaiting more detailed figures, ''which may or may not include changes to the route''.
''We’re not going to pretend that we can build it at any cost. I think that is an unreasonable situation, but I’ve not heard and not been advised that the costs are growing in any considerable way across those estimates.
''We’re going to be sensible with this project, we’re not going to be silly,'' she said. “So in that sense there are limits to blank cheques. You don’t just go out and say whatever it costs in a vacuum of information, we need all the information.''
Liberals infrastructure spokesman Alistair Coe said the government had a responsibility to tell Canberrans how it would pay for a $600 million project.
''This was a decision they flippantly made in order to woo Shane Rattenbury's endorsement for the government and they’re now stuck with the challenge of paying for an unviable project,'' he said.