Session insights

Future now: building, managing and enhancing resilient infrastructure. What are the opportunities to help build stronger connections between infrastructure assets and communities?

Colacino, Chief of Policy and Research at Infrastructure Australia EY Port Jackson Partners partner Blair Comley Chief Executive Officer of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council, Ainsley Simpson

*insight notes are presented in order of speaking appearance

Infrastructure Australia’s Peter Colacino urges councils to rethink approach to risk and resilience at Leadership Summit

Infrastructure Australia’s Peter Colacino urged local councils to engage and collaborate with the federal government’s infrastructure advisory body to help them plan and prepare for a more complex risk environment in the future, citing research that found the cost of disasters will double by the year 2050.

Mr Colacino said councils were already engaged with IA to plan infrastructure to combat coastal inundation, now listed as a national priority for IA.

Colacino, Chief of Policy and Research at Infrastructure Australia, is one of the leading voices in Australian infrastructure, responsible for driving Infrastructure Australia’s transformative policy and research agenda across sustainability, resilience, place-making, industry productivity and infrastructure planning.

“We evaluate business cases for nationally significant investment proposals seeking more than $250 million on commonwealth funding – and that includes local government projects,” said Mr Colacino

“We set the agenda for long term infrastructure reform that will improve living standards and national productivity.

“Risk management is not going to be enough. Resilience is not risk management. Resilience is about how to absorb, accommodate, transform, and thrive after the impacts of disaster.

“You all own assets – I urge you to assess the exposure of your critical assets and to build resilience into the most critical ones.

“It is not just about disaster and climate change. Cyber is growing in prominence.

“We hear from the electricity distributors that the number of cyber-attacks is in the thousands every minute. There are malicious actors with a high level of capability.

“The ability to resist all threats and hazards at the same time is non-existent, so therein lies the importance of resilience,” said Mr Colacino.

Peter Colacino offered insight into what resilience means.  And what it does not.

“Infrastructure Australia’s aim is resilient communities.  Not resilient infrastructure.

“The outcomes are for people and place. Infrastructure is an enabler of outcomes in that space.

“What we are trying to do is make sure communities are well placed to thrive over the long term.

“Will you ever have a community that is fully resilient? No, because there will always be shocks and stresses,” he said.

According to IA, the key to building resilient infrastructure lies in co-ordinated government across all sectors.

Mr Colacino highlighted 10 opportunities for systemic change in infrastructure planning outlined in an IA publication.

A Pathway to Infrastructure Resilience recommends a whole-of-system, all-hazards approach to resilience planning that focuses on strengthening an infrastructure asset, network and sector, as well as the place, precinct, city, and region that the infrastructure operates within.

Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure NSW partnered on the research project to identify opportunities to improve how infrastructure is planned to increase resilience. Both organisations collaborated with 600 experts from across Australia from government, industry, peak bodies, academia, and civil society organisations.

The 10 points are:

  1. Improve strategic alignment of resilience governance
  2. manage uncertainty through scenario planning
  3. improve data for informed planning, action ad decision-making
  4. adopt a place-based approach
  5. embed resilience into land use planning and development decisions
  6. improve infrastructure investment decision making
  7. collect and share information on asset and network vulnerability
  8. value blue and green infrastructure
  9. build trust through more inclusive decision making
  10. embed traditional ecological knowledge in decision making

“You are in the best placed-seat to take these issues forward and you have much to gain,” said Peter Colacino.

EY Port Jackson Partners partner Blair Comley told the Leadership Summit that the biggest risk to adapting to a net zero future is that many decisions simply do not factor in a change to climate.

Mr Comley said the biggest shock for the economy over the next 20 years will be the transition to net zero, but he questioned whether decision makers ‘internalise’ the reality of climate change on a day to day basis.

To support better decision making in councils, Mr Comley advised professional staff to build routine success monitoring into their daily habits.

“Local government.. need to develop routines that bring to consideration, as a matter of course, what is going to happen with a change in climate and what that mean for infrastructure decision I am making now,” said Mr Comley.

On scenario planning, Mr Comley said there was a role for organisations like Local Government Professionals Australia to help local government with scenarios. He posed an example of how his firm is wrestling the scenario issue.

“The first factor is de-carbonisation. How fast is the world going to de-carbonise?

“The other dimension is how benign is your assumptions about the pace of technological change?

“And the other is, what is the likely cost of taking emission out of the atmosphere?

“In local government, scenarios with combinations of those three dimensions will radically affect the pace of change,” said Mr Comley.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Infrastructure Sustainability Council, Ainsley Simpson, told the Summit how local government can benefit from participating with the Council.

The Infrastructure Sustainability Council operates the IS Rating Scheme (IS), Australia and New Zealand’s only comprehensive rating system for evaluating economic, social and environmental performance of infrastructure across the planning, design, construction and operational phases of infrastructure assets.

The scheme can assess the sustainability performance of infrastructure at the individual assets level, for portfolios or networks, or even at a regional scale.

“The IS rating scheme is a really practical way to create really positive behaviour change,” said Ms. Simpson.

“You will know not only how your asset is performing in terms of its benchmark but equally how it aligns with the United Nation’s sustainable development goals.

Simpson argued that disasters and instability are compounding – and accumulative and inter-dependent.

“The impact of that is on people”, said Ms. Simpson.

To help deliver more sustainable infrastructure, the Council has become something akin to an eco-friendly matchmaker.

Its website has a portal called the ISupply Directory that connects sustainable suppliers with projects and assets undertaking the Infrastructure Sustainability Council’s (IS) Rating Scheme.

Since 2012, over $200b worth of infrastructure projects and assets have engaged in the IS Rating Scheme.

The ISupply Directory provides an opportunity for suppliers to market their products and services to projects that have requirements through the IS rating, and for IS rating partners to identify suppliers that will help them achieve sustainability outcomes rewarded under the scheme.

Ainsley Simpson told the audience that councils can take great strides by simply using the “levers you already have – policy, planning and procurement.”

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