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Prime Mover Magazine

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Michael Kilgariff

Good planning means good outcomes

August 2017

It seems that every week of late brings another story of the formation of a group designed to exert pressure on state and local governments to ‘do something’ about heavy-vehicle movements on roads in and around their local community.

Precisely what that ‘something’ should be is the hard part of the question, of course – and one that resident and activist groups never quite manage to answer.

The continuing popularity of inner-urban living brings with it a whole range of challenges – rising house prices, skyrocketing land values and increasing levels of congestion on local roads. When it comes to this latter issue, it’s all too easy for activists to point at trucks on the road and cry “J’acusse!”

Regrettably, as I’ve previously noted in these pages, it seems equally easy for local and state governments to respond by slapping curfews and bans on heavy-vehicle movements along particular routes.

This may well placate resident complaints about one issue in the short term, but in the long run, it simply shifts the congestion problem from one community to another, and results in higher costs for freight operators – and higher consumer prices for everyone.

Very often, the groups agitating for a more restrictive access regime represent the new wave of inner-city resident – professional classes (for want of a better term) who have moved into renovated or new residential developments located in close proximity to key freight infrastructure, such as major ports.

While it’s important that the rights of residents and property owners are respected, policy makers also must respect the rights of those who have invested in ports and other freight facilities – not to mention those who make their living by driving heavy vehicles.

After all, the ports in our major cities, such as Sydney and Melbourne, have been operational for far longer than many of the activists now complaining about the noise and heavy-vehicle movements have been living in their vicinity.

Although increasing rail’s share of the freight task will form part of the solution, it is not a silver bullet. Heavy vehicles will continue to play a significant role in transporting goods to the places they need to go. That means that residents and heavy vehicles will need to establish a peaceful coexistence.

The best way to achieve such an outcome is for freight movement to be given far greater consideration in our planning systems, so that the land and infrastructure essential to the freight task does not come into conflict with sensitive-use developments.

Early last month, Infrastructure Australia (IA) published a policy paper entitled Corridor Protection: Planning and investing for the long term. It’s a timely reminder that good planning decisions today will engender good infrastructure and community amenity outcomes tomorrow.

It’s especially fortunate that IA’s new report has emerged during the time the Federal Government is undertaking its formal consultations on the development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

As part of that process, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) has been working closely with its members and other industry participants to highlight the issues that the developing Strategy must address if it is to deliver optimal outcomes for the freight logistics industry and for the wider economy.

The centrality of corridor protection to obtaining the right outcomes was also given heavy emphasis in the ALC’s recently released Working Paper, Charting The Course For a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy.

IA’s recommendation that a national framework be developed for corridor protection is most welcome, and should be supported by governments at all levels. Such an approach would undoubtedly lead to better economic, environmental and community outcomes in infrastructure projects across all jurisdictions.

By working together to ensure freight movement is accorded due priority in our planning mechanisms, we can help to reduce some of the hostility that is too often directed towards heavy vehicles by well-intentioned, but often misguided, activist groups in the community.

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