For local government, there is no more vital – or rapidly evolving – task than effective asset management.
As the owners of infrastructure valued at more than $345 billion, Australia’s 537 councils comply with laws and regulations governing engineering standards, work health and safety, and electromagnetic radiation, etc.
Now, however, they are also having to respond quickly to federal government requirements for critical infrastructure assets to be safeguarded against cyber-attacks by criminals, terrorist groups or foreign state actors.
The need for more resilient telecommunications assets – one of the many lessons to have emerged from natural disasters over the past two decades – is also impacting councils.
The challenges of effectively managing assets in a dynamic environment are such that some councils are turning to specialist providers, particularly in wireless telecommunications infrastructure.
One such company, Stilmark, works with councils and carriers to co-locate existing facilities on towers that it builds, operates, manages, and owns.
For councils whose buildings and other infrastructure assets have become unwitting hosts to a variety of transmitters and receivers – to the point where public safety and engineering integrity questions have arisen – the advantages of tapping specialist expertise are obvious.
Stilmark’s risk-based approach is intended to help councils build resilience and reduce the impacts of risk in relation to telecommunications infrastructure.
As Stilmark’s Josh Maxwell puts it: “Stilmark helps councils understand the risks associated with owning, operating or being involved in communications.”
Mr Maxwell, who is director of WHS, Risk and Security, says proposed amendments to the Security of Critical Infrastructure Act (2018) expanding the definition of critical infrastructure to include water, amongst others (gas, electricity and maritime ports), means councils will be further involved in the management of critical infrastructure.
“The best way to do this is to undertake an all-hazards approach to assessing risks to infrastructure assets, and to develop plans to make the management of those assets efficient,” he said.
“And the easiest way to do that with wireless assets is to have something that is designed for that specific purpose and which will facilitate communications capability for councils and the local communities.”
Towers hosting nothing but wireless installations offer councils streamlined site access and asset management processes.
Stilmark will do an actual site audit to identify the structure and the equipment that can go on the structure, and then provide councils with a report recommending what would need to be done to bring the structure up to Australian standards and ensure compliance with the relevant work health and safety legislation.
“We can also work with councils to help facilitate discussions about the design and construction of new, resilient telecommunications infrastructure, both from a capital perspective and community telecommunications as well,” Mr Maxwell said.
“It’s all about understanding resilience, and understanding the risks associated with what every council has, and then coming up with strategies that will then mitigate those risks in terms of how councils manage their infrastructure.
“The impact that bushfires, storms and cyclones have on critical infrastructure is not going to go away in Australia,” Mr Maxwell says.