A $70 million contract for a western Sydney business powering the city’s shift to electric buses will begin a “manufacturing renaissance” in NSW, according to the premier.
Dominic Perrottet says the contract for Custom Denning to deliver a further 79 electric buses from its St Marys factory will also create 40 apprenticeships, as local manufacturing becomes a “substantial focus” of the government.
“This is all about creating local jobs for local people to help our local communities thrive,” Mr Perrottet said on Monday.
Custom Denning’s electric bus was approved by the Transport for NSW procurement panel last year and more than 20 had previously been ordered after trials by bus operators around Sydney.
The new buses are slated to deliver services in Sydney’s inner west.
Committee for Sydney resilience director Sam Kernaghan says the contracts for electric buses are “a big step in the right direction”.
“We encouraged the government to use its procurement power to help local industry help the state reach its net zero targets, and that’s exactly what’s happening here,” Mr Kernaghan says.
The government plans to transition about 8000 diesel and gas buses to electric by the end of the decade.
Transport Minister David Elliott says the electric shift is part of “the next industrial revolution” that will “see cities evolve as much cleaner destinations”.
Mr Elliott was appointed to the position in December amid a challenging time for transport in NSW, with procurement issues surrounding foreign-built trains, ferries, and trams providing ammunition for the government’s critics.
The decision to build locally may provide “goodwill” with unions who have been calling on the government to increase local manufacturing of transport assets, but the decision is “a concession to the taxpayers”, not the unions.
“We’re happy to pay for quality, and what we see with this product is not something that went to the lowest bidder at the earliest and the quickest opportunity,” Mr Elliott said.
Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey says the announcement won’t “make up for a decade of neglecting local manufacturing jobs and industry”.
The government should commit to building the remaining 7900 buses it will need before 2030 in NSW as well, he said.
“It’s nice to see Mr Perrottet cotton on to the concerns we have been raising, but so far we are seeing more spin than substance,” Mr Morey said.
Mr Perrottet says the state hasn’t “got the balance right in the past” when it comes to local manufacturing and has lost “opportunities for us to manufacture onshore”.
Doing so comes “at potentially a higher price, but a higher price meaning more jobs and better business opportunities for the people of our state”, he said.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns says the premier had left it “very late in the game” for the government to “all of a sudden be a huge supporter of domestic manufacturing”.
Voters will see through the “cynical” decision off the back of the weekend’s by-elections and he will be “very surprised if (the premier) follows through on his domestic manufacturing pledge”, he said.