Sustainable and Resilient – Delivering the Infrastructure Needed for 21st Century Challenges
OpEd – David Tucker (Chief of Project Advisory and Evaluation, Infrastructure Australia)
Since the summer of 2019, Australian communities have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, a record-breaking bushfire season, economic vulnerability, extensive flooding, increasing geopolitical uncertainty, and
cyber-attacks on operational infrastructure. These challenges have demonstrated how critical our infrastructure is for maintaining community well-being, biodiversity, and a functional economy.
Australia’s governments, communities and businesses are now working to recover from these compounding crises, with efforts underway to return to normality and rebuild our economy.
As part of the rebuild, we need to look forward and recognise that the recent disasters provide a warning sign for the risks and uncertainties that lie ahead. Collectively this means that the infrastructure sector will play a primary mitigation and adaptation role in preparing for future extreme events. Our assets and networks must be able to resist, absorb, accommodate, recover, transform, and thrive in response to shocks and stresses.
To protect Australians as we move forward, we need to transform infrastructure planning, delivery, and management. To help support this transition, we have embedded sustainability and resilience into our Infrastructure Australia Assessment Framework by providing best practice guidance on:
How sustainability and resilience can be included in cost-benefit analysis and considered qualitatively
How to measure the long-term benefits of sustainability and resilience, considering the short-term costs
How to account for risk and uncertainty throughout project development
High-level guidance on considering sustainability and resilience at each stage of a project’s lifecycle, by embedding sustainable thinking at the early stages of project development and seeking to optimise outcomes through the duration of an asset’s life.
We hope that by including this guidance, we will start to see a step-change across the industry whereby sustainability and resilience becomes a first-order consideration in the development of infrastructure proposals.