The ACT government will earmark $5 billion over five years for infrastructure projects across hospitals, schools, transport and local facilities, in an effort to boost Canberra's economy as COVID-19 restrictions ease.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the investment in this week's territory budget was the largest of its kind in ACT history and it showed the government was "going full throttle" to support the economy.
Mr Barr pointed to record-low interest rates as an opportunity for the ACT to take a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in projects across Canberra.
The budget commitment will include $877 million in funding for health infrastructure over five years, including money for a cancer research centre at Canberra Hospital and planning work for a new hospital in Canberra's north.
The first stop for light rail's second stage will be funded in the budget, part of a $1.4 billion package for the city's transport network, that also includes money to duplicate William Hovell Drive.
The government will spend $2.8 million over two years on consultation and design work for the Acton waterfront development, which the government has relied on to be a key benefit of light rail stage 2A.
The budget will include $950 million for education infrastructure projects over five years. Projects will include an expansion of Margaret Hendry School in Taylor and construction of a high school in Taylor.
The ACT government will also fund planning work for a school at Strathnairn, on Canberra's western fringe, and upgrades at Narrabundah College and Garran Primary School.
More than $12 million will be set aside for upgrades to emergency services facilities and $18.7 million will be allocated to upgrades for local shopping centres across the ACT.
The budget will include $15 million over three years for a purpose-built facility for the Gugan Gulwan Youth Aboriginal Corporation in Wanniassa, and $1.65 million for design work for a southern memorial park.
The infrastructure plan also includes more than $580 million to repair and build public housing over the next five years.
The budget will also add $1.4 billion to the ACT's public trading enterprises, which include Icon Water, the City Renewal Authority, Housing ACT, the Suburban Land Agency and the Cemeteries and Crematoria Authority.
The ACT government expects its infrastructure program to create more than 15,000 construction jobs.
Mr Barr in May said the ACT had a once-in-a-generation chance to achieve full employment, as the federal and territory governments were both working towards job creation rather than austerity.
"We are all Keynesians now," he said at the time, in reference to the 20th century economist John Maynard Keynes, who advocated high government spending to promote economic activity.
The Chief Minister in June said the ACT's infrastructure plan would be reworked in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a new roadmap of work expected by the end of the year.
"Having a clear infrastructure plan already laid out allowed the ACT to move quickly to reconfirm major projects and fast-track the rollout of a large number of smaller screwdriver-ready projects. Doing so saved thousands of direct and ancillary jobs in the ACT economy through the worst of the global recession," he said at the time.
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Mr Barr had released the $14 billion, 10-year infrastructure plan in October 2019, but warned its implementation would depend on population growth and the support of the Commonwealth and the private sector.
The ACT government underspent on infrastructure projects by $250 million in 2019-20, audited budget papers showed.
The government planned to spend $767 million on capital works that fiscal year, but only spent $521 million, blaming slower-than-anticipated delivery of projects.
A government spokeswoman in March said there were multiple reasons why last year's targets were not met.
"COVID-19 was the single largest and had a significant impact on the delivery of capital projects," she said.
"Other factors included wet weather, extreme weather events ([for example] bushfires, hailstorms), defect periods for projects resulting in financial completion of a project lagging physical completion by three to 12 months, and in a small number of cases ongoing planning approval processes delaying commencement."
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