The recent Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) conference - ‘Is Australia’s big infrastructure spend delivering value’ - challenged our sector to reflect on how we deliver value through infrastructure projects across Australia.
This article was originally published on the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) website.
The term 'value’ can mean many things, and I feel it is important to consider the social value that can be created by infrastructure and the importance of getting this aspect of delivery right.
‘Value for money’, ‘value engineering’ and ‘return on investment’ are all common terms used to determine the success of infrastructure initiatives. But how often do we measure a project’s success, once completed, based on its social value and benefits?
Both the infrastructure sector, and the communities it is designed to serve, are becoming more complex. Project interdependencies, political pressure, community outrage, supply chain shortages, and competition for funding are all making infrastructure harder to deliver.
More than ever, it is important that we collaborate as a sector to solve problems, and focus our efforts on the right solutions. Breaking down the barriers that result from complex processes and enabling greater transparency will ensure more people are granted access to better collective outcomes.
In 2021, Energy Charter released the #BetterTogether Better Landowner Engagement. Its purpose is to establish more effective ways of engaging energy networks, landowners, and communities to overcome the many challenges of energy infrastructure planning and delivery.
The Charter is an industry- and customer-led initiative to understand and meet customer expectations. What makes this a world-first is that it is a whole-of-sector initiative involving most energy networks from across Australia. Its vision? ‘Together, we will deliver energy for a better Australia.’
It’s this kind of collaboration that will allow the energy sector to create greater social benefit. And it’s a model for other industries to follow.
Creating a legacy is about much more than the completed piece of hard infrastructure. It’s about striving for benefit across the entire lifecycle - from how projects are designed, to how they are delivered, and the impact that remains for the community once they’re operational.
Social procurement and local training provide meaningful, long-lasting legacies for individuals, families, and communities. How we make decisions on projects, and the way in which people are engaged also has the potential to leave a lasting legacy – good or bad.
The Caulfield to Dandenong Skyrail was a highly contentious project in Victoria that, through its design removed nine level crossings between Caulfield and Dandenong.
This engineering marvel also created more than five kilometres of new parks on land that was formerly reserved not for people, but for railway tracks. The engagement approach saw Melbourne communities co-design these public spaces. It provided opportunities to build capacity and support communities as part of the transformation.
As we look at the pipeline ahead, we must look at the opportunities within each project to deliver benefits beyond transport, or energy, or water.
We have positive examples to draw on. We just need to make social benefit a consideration not by exception, but by default. In 2022, Australian communities expect it as much as they need it.
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