Research Outputs

The Infrastructure Governance Incubator Final Report

Cover for infrastructure governance incubator final report

This final report was produced at the completion of the Infrastructure Governance Incubator research project, funded by the Henry Halloran Research Trust at the University of Sydney for three years, and involving collaboration across three universities. The report focuses on the key findings of the Incubator’s major case study research on infrastructure governance in the Western Parklands City project in Western Sydney. The core of this report is comprised of several main chapters that each deal with one of the major areas of findings on infrastructure governance:

Chapter 1: Planning on unceded Aboriginal land
Chapter 2: Collaborative governance and integration
Chapter 3: Governance accountability and transparency
Chapter 4: Political influence in infrastructure governance
Chapter 5: Social legitimacy and capacities to deliver on societal end goals

Full report (pdf, 3.3MB)

Journal Publications

Clements, R., Alizadeh, T., & Searle, G. (2023)

Abstract:The existing landscape of infrastructure governance discourses tends to focus on closing “governance gaps” commonly based on fractured and opaque neoliberal planning and delivery processes, privatisation and financialisation issues, and inequitable distribution and undemocratic decision-making processes. These gaps represent a deeply troubling erosion of infrastructure’s capacity to serve public interests or confront crises of climate injustice. However, the literature rarely confronts the uncomfortable politics of decolonising infrastructure or acknowledges ongoing permutations of settler-coloniality, implicating infrastructural framings of land, development, property, ownership, and decision-making power. This paper reflects on the current state of infrastructure governance literature about ongoing settler-colonial legacies in urban planning and development. Explaining some of the ways unceded Indigenous land has been exploited to facilitate settler state infrastructure development in major Australian cities, we then draw a line to the complicities of contemporary infrastructure governance. This foundation is considered using a systematic method to review infrastructure governance literature and reveal stark gaps in engagement with settler-coloniality and the politics of decolonisation. In light of these silences, we reflect on disciplinary responsibilities to redress research practices and suggest two reflexive approaches centred on to truth-telling and deep listening.

Read the full open access paper

Clements, R., Alizadeh, T., Kamruzzaman, L., Searle, G., & Legacy, C. (2022). 

Abstract: Infrastructure governance has emerged as a subject of critical interest in the current ‘infrastructure turn’ whereby fragmented governance approaches sit in tension with complex demands for infrastructure transformations within contexts of multiple intersecting crises. To understand the state of the literature and inform ongoing debates, a systematic review method is used to interrogate a large body of infrastructure governance literature across sectoral boundaries. This review identifies a range of literature gaps prevailing in the areas of infrastructure governance on unceded First Nations land, the societal end goals of infrastructure, and understandings and applications of integrated governance.

Full report

Alizadeh, T., Clements, R., Legacy, C., Searle, G., & Kamruzzaman, M. (2022).

Abstract: Planning should deliver urban infrastructures that nurture places and people. However, the misalignment between strategic plans and delivered projects reveals critical governance gaps, with little clarity surrounding for whom and what ends infrastructures serve. This positioning piece proposes an infrastructure governance research agenda focused on the integration of planning, funding, and social legitimacy of projects, and the reality of multiple ongoing crises. Most importantly, the proposed research agenda calls for a First Nation voice at the heart of infrastructure decision-making as part of the planning profession’s contribution to the Treaty process that Australia desperately needs to move forward.

Full report

Reports and media articles

Alizadeh, T., Searle, G. & Clements, R. (2023).

A massive project is unfolding in Sydney’s Western Parkland region. The building of a new city from the ground up is central to an infrastructure-led restructuring of metropolitan Sydney. The catalysts are the Western Sydney City Deal and the Western Sydney Airport being built alongside the new Bradfield City.

Bradfield city is being developed on unceded Aboriginal land with complex ongoing settler-colonial legacies and high stakes for diverse First Nations communities – including the largest urban Indigenous population in Australia. Yet it is named after a colonial figure with no connection to the land.

Our case study research acknowledges what is happening in the Western Parkland development as being at the forefront of urban and infrastructure governance across Australia. It’s particularly notable how all three tiers of government – federal, state and local – have come together in this massive project.

Full article

(2022). Public-led smart city infrastructure final report: Barcelona. Submitted to project partners Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (NSW)

(2022). Public-led smart city infrastructure final report: Manchester. Submitted to project partners Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (NSW)

The ‘Endangered Infrastructures’ panel discussion at
the 2021 Festival of Urbanism brought together diverse expertise to explore some of the biggest challenges
for infrastructure governance in Australian cities in
our current time of intersecting crises. Drawing from
the Infrastructure Governance Incubator’s research, Associate Professor Tooran Alizadeh laid out several
key gaps that need greater attention in our struggle
for more just and effective infrastructure planning and delivery. Firstly, infrastructure planning in Australian cities takes place upon unceded First Nation land, and we must turn our attention towards recognising this colonial legacy, exploring the many existing and emerging alternative governance models that enable Indigenous- led governance in Australia and internationally. 

Full report (pdf, 5.3MB)

(2021, July). The Infrastructure Governance Incubator: Background Paper. Submitted to the Henry Halloran Trust, University of Sydney.

Full Report (pdf, 3.2MB)

Clements, R., Alizadeh, T., Searle, G., Legacy, C.,& Kamruzzaman, MD. (2021).

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has cast a much-needed light onto infrastructure provision but raises critical questions about our capacity to use the moment to support people and places and build sustainable and just futures. As we find ourselves facing complex challenges of wide-spread and urgent social need and disrupted economic patterns, governments have in part turned to infrastructure provision in an attempt to alleviate the impacts of the pandemic. This context has raised the stakes for Australian infrastructure planning, and the planning profession more broadly.

Full report


Transforming Infrastructure Governance - City Road Podcast Series

A series of conversations about transforming infrastructure governance. Our shared futures and community well-being are shaped by urban infrastructure such as for transport, green space, water, social, and digital services. While many public discussions revolve around which infrastructure projects should be prioritised, there is growing recognition that questions of governance are critical to achieving the social, ecological, and place-based transformations we need to address the climate crisis. In this series, we shine a light on some of the key challenges and opportunities for transforming the way we think about and do infrastructure governance, such as:

  • Who should be involved in decision making?
  • How can we better collaborate with communities?
  • How do we address planning on unceded Indigenous land?

For more information

PODCAST SERIES EPISODE 6: ‘State of Australasian Cities conference plenary session’

This episode focuses on a plenary discussion centred around the findings of the ‘Infrastructure Governance Incubator’ - a multidisciplinary collaborative research project across three universities – which took place at the State of Australasian Cities conference in December 2023.

This discussion sought to contribute to a renewed research agenda for Australasian infrastructure governance, considering the current state of governance challenges and potential future directions. It draws on findings from the Incubator’s case study of the Western Sydney Parkland City in New South Wales, Australia across multiple critical issues discussed across this podcast series: planning on unceded First Nations land, accountability and social legitimacy, collaborative governance and integration, and power and politics.

Host/Producer: Dallas Rogers, Mikayla Scolaro
Panel members: A/Prof. Tooran Alizadeh (host), Dr. Rebecca Clements, A/Prof. Glen Searle, A/prof Dallas Rogers, Elle Davidson (University of Sydney), Crystal Legacy (University of Melbourne), Liton Kamruzzaman (Monash University), Jago Dodson (Discussant, RMIT)

PODCAST SERIES EPISODE 5: ‘The politics of infrastructure governance: Power and influence in planning’

Infrastructure planning is intrinsically political – but are there significant differences between how we expect infrastructure planning to occur and the reality of how it plays out? Are our current approaches to the relationship between planning and power working? In this episode, we build on learnings from Victoria and consider the politics behind infrastructure decisions with Dr James Murphy, drawing on latest book, ‘The making and unmaking of East-West Link’. We consider the roles of electoral strategy, the making of political rationale, and community resistance to ask how we might better unpack the way we think about infrastructure politics.

Host/producer: Dallas Rogers, Mikayla Scolaro
Guest: James Murphy, Crystal Legacy (University of Melbourne)

PODCAST SERIES EPISODE 4: ‘Meaningful Public Accountability’

This episode considers the challenges of, and possibilities for, meaningful accountability in infrastructure governance. Public accountability is often publicly demanded or politically signalled, but much more rarely unpacked or discussed in depth. This episode discusses the importance of accountability in infrastructure and planning governance, and its multiple intersecting social understandings. We discuss the importance of scrutinising our current accountability approaches, power relationships, and contextual challenges in order to build more open and collaborative governance. We also hear insights from Roberta Ryan, the Independent Community Commissioner involved with the Western Parkland City.

Researchers present: Tooran Alizadeh and Rebecca Clements
Guest: Professor Roberta Ryan (University of Newcastle)

PODCAST SERIES EPISODE 3: ‘From fragmentation to integration: Building collaborative governance’

Different types of infrastructure need to work together to build and support great places and communities. Most of us can recognise the kinds of siloed and fragmented planning we see around us, but what do we mean when we make demands for, or promises of, “integrated governance”? This episode looks at the diverse challenges of trying to understand and enact integrated infrastructure governance within our highly fractured systems, including how government scales and institutions collaborate. We also hear insights about recent attempts at government integration from Joanna Kubota at the Western Parkland Councils (now called The Parks), an alliance of eight local governments involved in planning the Western Parkland City.

Researchers present: Glen Searle and Crystal Legacy
Guest: Joanna Kubota (Western Parkland Councils)

PODCAST SERIES EPISODE 2: ‘Infrastructure on Unceded Land’

How is infrastructure entangled with the legacies and ongoing processes of settler-coloniality? How might we give more meaningful attention to planning for Country and with Indigenous sovereignties?Cities in so-called Australia are built on unceded First Nations land. We talk about what this means for the way we understand and do infrastructure planning, and the responsibilities of planning professions. Asking these types of questions unsettles many governance assumptions, and prompts infrastructure professions to question ‘who gets to decide?’, ‘whose knowledge is prioritised?’, and ‘who benefits?’.

PODCAST SERIES MINI EPISODE: ‘A systematic review, what is it?’

This mini-episode takes a deep dive into the Systematic Literature Review.

  • What is it?
  • Where did it come from?
  • And can this methodology from science work in a social science research environment?

PODCAST SERIES EPISODE 1: ‘Transformation of what?’

This first episode sets out some of the big questions and challenges for thinking about how to transform infrastructure governance. It looks at the research agenda informing the work of the Infrastructure Governance Incubator. The discussion includes findings from a systematic literature review of the topic, which reveals a need for more research focused on reckoning with settler coloniality and planning on unceded First Nations land, the societal end goals of infrastructure, and how we understand, and do, governance integration to better link strategic planning with actual infrastructure delivery. These questions not only challenge our understandings of what infrastructure is meant to achieve and how we deliver it, but who is involved in setting agendas and priorities.

Public Presentations

Conference papers and presentations

[PLENARY SESSION] Alizadeh, T., Clements, R., Searle, G., Kamruzzaman, L., Davidson, E., Legacy, C., Rogers, D. (2023). Renewing the Research Agenda for Infrastructure Governance: Country, Integrated Collaborative Governance, and Social Legitimacy. Research presentation at the State of Australasian Cities National Conference, 6-8 December, Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Searle, G., Clements, R., Legacy, C., & Alizadeh, T. (2023). Tri-level governance rescaling: Enabling Sydney’s spatial restructuring into three cities. Paper presented at the Association of European Schools of Planning 2023 Annual Congress, 11-15 July, Łódź, Poland.

Alizadeh, T., Clements, R., & Searle, G. (2023). Conceptualising public accountability challenges in collaborative infrastructure governance: Lessons from Western Sydney Parkland City. 9th International Megaprojects ‘Theory Meets Practice’ Workshop, 3-4 April, Sydney, Australia.

Alizadeh, T., Clements, R., Legacy, C., Searle, G., Kamruzzaman, L. (2021). Infrastructure Governance: Major gaps for Australian research and beyond. Paper presented at the State of Australian Cities National Conference 1-3 December, Melbourne, Australia.

Clements, R., Alizadeh, T. (2021, July). Beyond settler-colonial infrastructure gaps: A reflective research agenda for tackling epistemic silences in infrastructure. Institute of Australian Geographers & New Zealand Geographical Society Combined Conference. 6-9 July, 2021, Sydney, Australia.