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Infrastructure Governance Incubator: From Strategic Planning to Project Delivery

13 March 2020
Announcing a new incubator

The proposed ‘Infrastructure Governance Incubator’ will take a comprehensive approach to the three-fold infrastructure governance challenges identified above. It makes a multidisciplinary effort to bring engineering, economic, and socio-spatial sciences together as part of an integrated infrastructure governance model for Australian cities.

A cityscape

In a world grappling with the ever-growing challenges of accelerating urbanism, Australia’s two largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – are growing rapidly. The underlying burden of urban growth is the strain it puts on infrastructure systems; whether they be transport, telecommunications, water/sewerage, electricity, waste management, or/and social infrastructure (schools, libraries, hospitals, stadiums, cultural facilities etc.). It is evident that infrastructure planning, financing and delivery (collectively referred to as infrastructure governance) in Australia struggles with lack of social licencing as public outrage continues over a number of flagship infrastructure projects.

‘Infrastructure Governance Incubator’ takes a comprehensive approach to develop an infrastructure governance model for Australian cities. Informed by international best practices, the incubator aims to develop a novel infrastructure governance model for Australia enabling alignment between strategic planning and project delivery in terms of visioning and policy formulation, financing, and public engagement.

The research team will actively seek additional funding from private and public sectors (Australian Research Council) to both broaden the scope of research and ensure the long-term viability of the incubator. The overarching aim of the incubator is to operate as a centre for research excellence and provide a policy/practice relevance evidence base in all aspects of infrastructure governance.

Project Team

The Incubator is led by A/Prof. Tooran Alizadeh based at the University of Sydney, and includes a multi-university core team of A/Prof. Liton Kamruzzaman based at Monash University, Dr. Crystal Legacy based at the University of Melbourne, and A/Prof. Glen Searle based at the University of Sydney. The core team will be supported by a post-doc based at the University of Sydney, and several causal research assistant(s), and PhD students. Further, an advisory board is formed to support the core team, ensuring that the project remains policy focused at all stages.

Research Programs

Amid the ever-growing challenges of accelerating urbanism, Australia’s two largest cities – Sydney and Melbourne – are growing rapidly. The underlying burden of urban growth is the strain it puts on infrastructure systems. A growing population, modern economy imperatives, increasing environmental awareness, and the proliferation of new technologies have placed intensified and new demands on infrastructure governance (planning, financing and delivery):

1.     From the planning perspective:  Infrastructure networks are increasingly interconnected. The infrastructure systems in one sector (e.g. transport) increasingly rely on other sectors (e.g. electricity or/and telecommunication) in order to operate. These interdependencies mean that failures in one system can cause follow-on failures in others. In contrast, decision-making agencies associated with infrastructure are fragmented, and their decisions are disjointed from the interconnectivity of infrastructure systems, and overall strategic plans for growth.  In particular, as pointed out by the Planning Institute of Australia in its latest report, land use planning has been inadequately coordinated with infrastructure planning.

2.     From the financing and delivery perspective: Infrastructure investment has not kept up with the pace of urban development leaving many existing components at the end of their life, with no room to accommodate growth. The Productivity Commission, in its review of public infrastructure in Australia, pointed out numerous examples of poor value for money arising from inadequate project selection. Infrastructure Australia has also highlighted that existing business models often provide poor value. Innovative financing and delivery models are required to make better use of what is already available, as well as adding to the supply of infrastructure.

3.     From the social licencing perspective: A social licence to operate – most simply described as community acceptance of a project – is increasingly being recognised as necessary and beneficial to infrastructure planning and development. Meaningful consultation helps to ensure a more just social development practice, and helps to accumulate knowledge on how communities want to be involved in infrastructural projects. Community and individual perceptions of their involvement can affect their acceptance of a project as a whole, with projects risking delay or cancellation due to local opposition. Consultation is the predominant method of community engagement in infrastructure development. Therefore, understanding stakeholder interactions within consultation, particularly in terms of meaningful ability to influence strategy and project definition in formative stages, is critical to acquiring a social licence to operate.