President’s column – 28 February 2020

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

This week Infrastructure Australia released its 2020 Infrastructure Priority List, and I’m pleased to say it reinforces the key themes ALGA has been advocating for on behalf of the sector.

According to Infrastructure Australia, the list is designed to spark investment and coordinated action from industry and government. They listed the following national initiatives as “high priority” or “priority”:

Regional Road Safety, town and water security, national water strategy, coastal inundation protection strategy, national waste and recycling management, national road maintenance strategy, remote indigenous housing and mobile telecommunications coverage in regional and remote areas.

This new list was based on more than 200 submissions from all levels of government, industry, and the general public which Infrastructure Australia collated in the wake of its Australian Infrastructure Audit 2019  released last August.

Let’s look closer at some of those high priority initiatives.

Their regional road network safety priority highlights that 55% of road fatalities occur on regional roads, four times the per capital route in metro areas. Targeted infrastructure improvements are required to remove or reduce hazards due to road curvature, embankments, roadside obstacles and a lack of safety barriers.

The town and city water security initiative is designed to safeguard water for 20 million people and 9 million connected properties, especially towns with single supply sources. Infrastructure Australia proposes a mix of responses including demand management, and new water sources such as recycling and desalination.

The national water strategy is aimed at guiding governments, the private sector and the public on ways to efficiently and sustainably capture, use and manage water. It must consider factors including changes in run-off levels linked to changing land uses and climate change.

Coastal inundation is identified as a risk due to predicted sea level rises of between 0.4 and 0.6m this century. Options could include sea walls, buffer zones, early warning systems to facilitate evacuations. Infrastructure Australia also recommend the response strategy should also consider reducing greenhouse gases and introducing planning controls in areas subject to increasing vulnerability.

The national waste and recycling management initiative proposes a coordinated strategy between all levels of government and the market “to identify a program of investment in new waste recovery and reprocessing infrastructure”. This is needed to meet Australia’s long-term needs and foster the adoption of emerging technologies, the priority list said.

The list also prioritises improved mobile telecommunications coverage in regional and remote areas, locations that have no, or poor, mobile voice and data reception, which limits the reliability and quality of services.

“Locations for consideration for greater prioritisation should include the national transport network, regions with elevated risk of emergency or threat, as well as communities with barriers to economic and social participation,” Infrastructure Australia said.

The new list also complements ALGA’s 2020-21 Federal Budget Submission, in which we sought funding for initiatives such as a Smart Communities Program at $100 million per annum to ensure that the benefits of digital technologies are fully realised across the country.

I encourage you to look at the 2020 Infrastructure Priority List, and see what the advisory body considers a priority in your state/territory. It may assist in your advocacy efforts with your state/territory government.

I want to end by thanking Cr Lynne Craigie OAM of the WA Local Government Association (WALGA) for her service to the ALGA Board.

Lynne finishes on 3 March. She’s retiring from WALGA and the ALGA Board, on which she has sat since March 2013 making her our longest serving board member.

Cr Craigie was elected President of WALGA in July 2015 and has been a State Councillor since April 2008.

She has been a Councillor since 2003 and has spent 10 years as President of the Shire of East Pilbara.

Thank you, Lynne, for your tireless service to Local Government in the East Pilbara, to WA, and nationally. ALGA wishes you the very best for the future.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President