Queensland councils take control of infrastructure smarts

By Paul Hemsley

Queensland councils are to take full control of the state’s specialist infrastructure and engineering advisory service for local government.

The Queensland Treasury Corporation has agreed to relinquish its stake in the successful joint venture, Local Government Infrastructure Services Pty Ltd (LGIS), and will hand over its management and its 50 per cent to the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ).

The transfer of control is a significant milestone in the development and maturity of Queensland’s local government infrastructure capability because it shows there is now strong confidence in the sector to manage very substantial projects with complex needs and requirements.

The LGIS is broadly based on a UK model where local governments can contact the service for procurement advice, tender administration, project and program management support and advice.

The business provides a central point to help councils manage their infrastructure projects by “developing and evaluating efficient and effective infrastructure solutions”.

The urgent need for a strong skills and resource base for infrastructure management was vividly demonstrated immediately after Queensland’s most recent cyclones and flood disasters.

Those events not only required billions of dollars in funds to rebuild communities, roads and bridges but also hard-nosed investment decisions about where to harden infrastructure – or when to forgo rebuilding or development because of ongoing risks.

Over time the role of the LGIS has grown to be a pivotal one because since the its launch, the organisation has grown to include services including support for accessing disaster relief funding under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA).

The body successfully helped 19 councils to successfully apply for more than $1 billion of NDRRA funding following the ferocious and costly floods and cyclones in 2010-11, 2012 and 2013.

It has also provided professional advice on waste management planning, pricing and carbon tax readiness.

While the LGAQ and QTC have controlled the LGIS as a joint venture since its inception in 2005, the government-owned company’s increasing emphasis on engineering has naturally led to Treasury playing a lesser role in everyday operations.

LGAQ chief executive officer Greg Hallam said the reason for the Association’s takeover is because the focus and priorities of the business are more about infrastructure delivery, which is not the core competency or responsibility of the QTC.

However the QTC will not be completely cut out because of its essential knowledge of the organisation’s complex financial components.

Mr Hallam told Government News that the LGAQ will still have a technical services agreement with the QTC on financial modelling.

“When we started, we clearly couldn’t have done it without QTC,” Mr Hallam said.

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