Following the bushfires over the Australian summer of 2019/2020, the CSIRO was commissioned by the Prime Minister with the task of sourcing practical options to support and improve Australia’s climate and disaster resilience. The report was published in July 2020. Six key themes and twenty-five recommendations were outlined.
At the Asset Management Council’s recent government symposium, Mark Burgess from the CSIRO presented on building better climate and disaster resilience in our public infrastructure. Drawing from Chapter Eight, Improving Built Environment Resilience, which he co-authored with Justin Leonard, Mark spoke on the complexities and interconnectedness of critical infrastructure.
The interrelated nature of infrastructure means that often, when one asset is negatively impacted, other assets are equally affected. In the recent bushfires, for example, failure to a power pole left many roads impassable, which demonstrates the complications to critical infrastructure caused by natural disasters. The market failure in supply chains during the COVID pandemic, specifically with toilet paper, was brought on by individuals hoarding stock, not the stakeholders or infrastructure itself, and highlights the significant challenges around predicting the impact of events on infrastructure.
Additionally, many of the physical assets and networks are owned by the private sector, some even based external to Australia, which can impact the ability to consider the intangible benefits felt by the diverse range of actors. Equally, many of these private owners and participants all possess their own motivations and objectives in reference to resilience which can ultimately steer away from the desired outcome.
The linear nature of infrastructure brings a multi-jurisdictional element. Infrastructure such as roads, water and power all traverse borders and therefore impact all levels of government, making them important stakeholders in decision-making surrounding lifecycle maintenance and decommissioning processes. Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that all tiers of government support and understand the need for resilience in infrastructure. Resilience is necessary to correct poor planning and standards from the past, and to focus on new design and structural standards for the future.
Risk reduction frameworks are a huge component in planning for resilience of public infrastructure. In order to build back better, it is necessary to lose the mindset of replacing like for like. Any risk reduction framework ought to be applied while recognising the multi-dimensional aspect in resilience, the complexity of infrastructure, and the many different actors and stakeholders involved along with any competing motivations and priorities.
Planning for resilience in infrastructure is challenging. There are a great many tools available to assist in this aspect, however, it is widely acknowledged to be difficult to implement at a practical level.
If you’re working in the government sector in asset management, we’d love to hear your thoughts on resilience in infrastructure. Make contact via firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know the challenges faced, tools accessed and the successes of the project.
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