The announcement of the winning tender and final cost of the Berry to Bomaderry Princes Highway upgrade is not just about improving the road. It will also improve the prospects for local and Indigenous jobseekers.
Because it qualifies for the NSW government’s Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program, the project will open the door for local people to get skills and employment.
The Infrastructure Skills Legacy Program is designed to use the state’s infrastructure investment to offer opportunities for local workers through specific training and employment targets.
The program is operating at the Sydney Metro project, the Lismore Base Hospital Stage 3B redevelopment and the WestConnex new M4 project.
The project will also have a trainee and apprenticeship component, which will help bring down the region’s unacceptably high youth unemployment rate.
It is a welcome dividend to see it will also operate here when the highway duplication gets under way this year.
A training hub associated with the project is expected to open in July, hopefully in Nowra but its location is yet to be confirmed.
The federal government needs to keep a close eye on this project. It might just learn something from it.
Much was made in the recent federal budget about the infrastructure spend, part of a rolling $75 billion 10-year program. It sounded grand but subject to analysis, it’s really not much after all – a mere $7.5 million a year across the entire nation.
By comparison, the NSW government is spending $83 billion over four years.
However, infrastructure is not just about spending money; it is also about earning it and creating opportunities for generations to come. In a region such as ours, infrastructure projects have the potential to break the cycle of generational unemployment.
Imagine the benefits of pushing that highway upgrade south of Nowra, as called for by the FIX IT NOW campaign.
Not only would it make our vital road link safer for motorists but it would create employment and training opportunities for many young people, especially those in the Bay and Basin area struggling to find work. The more people working, the stronger the local economy. And that means increased revenue for governments to continue the task of nation building.
Both sides of federal politics need to be mindful of this opportunity.