Report card slams ‘short-term’ focus of Vic infrastructure

By Rob O'Brien

An infrastructure report card for the state of Victoria has shown a worrying drift in vital areas due to bad planning and a short-term focus from governments.

Engineers Australia 2010 Victorian Infrastructure Report Card, showed progress in some areas over the past 5 years, but general concern overall.

Some areas have either not improved since 2005, or have gone backwards, the report said.

The 2010 report card reviewed infrastructure categories across energy, telecommunications, transport and water and assigned ratings within the scales of A – F, with comparisons to the initial 2005 Victorian Infrastructure Report Card.

Of the categories reviewed in the 2010 report, airports and wastewater achieved a ‘B’ rating, while national, state and local roads got variations of the ‘C’ rating – indicating a need for major changes. The only area in need of critical change was rail, which was rated ‘D’.

Ports, irrigation, stormwater, gas, electricity and telecommunications all were rated with a ‘C’. The ratings for local roads, stormwater and gas were unchanged from the 2005 Victorian Infrastructure Report Card. Rail, potable water, wastewater and electricity have worsened, the report card found.

Engineers Australia’s infrastructure report card committee spokesperson, Professor John Wilson, said that while the report card takes account of large infrastructure projects that have been initiated in Victoria over the last five years, many critical aspects of Victoria’s infrastructure remain barely adequate for current needs, let alone future needs.

“Our review of Victoria’s infrastructure concludes that funding commitments are largely inadequate to support the substantial costs of renewal and replacement given ongoing population growth and the future challenges of climate change.

“There is inadequate investment of time in the planning, consultation and preparation for delivery to ensure projects are-ready-to go, and current planning and political processes create a short term focus in an area where a very long term focus is required.”

To ensure Victoria’s infrastructure will, in time, meet the needs and expectations of business and the wider community, the report card recommendations include the establishment of a new body to advise the Victorian Government on strategic infrastructure planning.

“Victoria’s State and Local Governments must lead the development of long-term, integrated infrastructure plans and ensure successful implementation through increased investment in the project planning and consultation phases.

“The establishment of a new strategic advisory body to assist the Victorian Government on infrastructure planning is essential to bring together clear thinking about the complexities and priorities of infrastructure development across our State,” Professor Wilson said.

“The establishment of an infrastructure body would also provide a direct interface with Infrastructure Australia to ensure that Victorian ‘business-case-projects’ are clearly identified and ready for access to Australian Government funding.

Other recommendations of the report card include an increase in the quantum of funding, addressing population growth and climate change, partnering with the private sector and addressing the allocation of risk within such partnerships.

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