Lack of infrastructure information hampers planning

Current reporting of infrastructure doesn’t reflect community experiences or measure performance against access, quality and cost, the head of Australia’s independent infrastructure body says.

Romilly Madew, chief executive of Infrastructure Australia, told a local government conference there is a lack of “reliable and user-focused” information about infrastructure across most sectors.

Romilly Madew

“This means decisions may fail to focus on the long-term interests of users, or may not accurately predict changes in demand,” she told the ALGA National General Assembly in Canberra last week.

“It makes assessing the performance of assets, networks and services difficult and limits our ability to make informed decisions about the infrastructure we use, and impacts on our ability to deliver long term benefits for our community.”

Ms Madew was speaking ahead of the release of the 2019 Australian Infrastructure Audit which will be handed to the minister this week.

It is expected to become publicly available in coming months.

The audit, which paints a picture of the trends that will affect infrastructure decisions over the next 15 years, was designed to provoke a “robust discussion”, Ms Madew said.

Local government vital in infrastructure planning

Ms Madew said Local Government is vital in the strategic infrastructure planning process.

“Across all levels of Australian government it is local governments that understand the needs of the community best,” she said.

“While federal and state government have a large role to play in funding and delivering large infrastructure, councils work to create well planned liveable spaces, that harness existing assets and meet individual community needs.”

Infrastructure planning faced a unique time in history she said, with increasing weather extremes, a shift in the economy, workforce changes, population growth, changes in urban organisation and rapid technological change.

The audit looks at different geographical areas, taking into account the unique needs of each community, including fast-growing cities, regional centres, remote areas and developing regions.

It found while regional centres are emerging as service hubs, population growth is outstripping infrastructure in fast-growing cities and a much of the existing infrastructure in remote regions is sub-standard by national expectations.

“The audit will show us what Australia’s infrastructure needs are and strategically assess the drivers for demand to form an evidence base that will shape the next 15 years of planning,” Ms Madew said.

“Our hope is it will enable better decision making and empower governments and communities with the data required to deliver the infrastructure our communities need.”

ALGA vice president Linda Scott said with an estimated $30 billion needed to renew ageing infrastructure, the nation was heading into a major renewal phase over the next two decades.

Coming amid fiscal restraints on councils and rapid population growth, it was a challenge local government would have to step up to meet, she said.

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One thought on “Lack of infrastructure information hampers planning

  1. The current focus on infrastructure development is too politically driven and arguably shortsighted. Effectively ignoring the infrastructure needs of regional communities accelerates regional migration to cities, further biassing infrastructure demand and the value of votes in the urban footprint. The resulting electoral re-distributions lead to more politicians in outer urban seats and less regional representation. I’m not arguing for no urban infrastructure, just a more strategic balance as this trend is self-reinforcing.

    Perhaps Infrastructure Australia needs to be isolated from government influence and given an expanded role in identifying and delivering projects based on impartial evidence based analysis. Projects should be fire-walled from political influence.

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