IWA group photo
The IWA team following the tabling of WA’s first State Infrastructure Strategy in Parliament.
  • Historically, infrastructure funding and prioritisation has often been caught up in political cycles
  • The Strategy contains 93 recommendations covering nine specific infrastructure sectors and seven cross-cutting themes
  • Developing the Strategy during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has also influenced some of the key factors that have been considered

The establishment of Infrastructure WA (IWA) in June 2019 was a milestone for the state and a significant step toward the more strategic and coordinated delivery of major infrastructure in WA.

UDIA WA welcomed the launch of the first State Infrastructure Strategy (Strategy) discussion paper in 2020 and the final Strategy that was tabled in Parliament by the State Government in August last year.

The Institute has been pleased to support IWA throughout the last three years, given that we have long advocated for a long-term plan for infrastructure to guide urban development in Perth and the regions.

Historically, infrastructure funding and prioritisation have often been caught up in political cycles, without a coordinated and future-focused approach based on solid population growth forecasts and alignment with land use planning frameworks.

“A forward-looking strategy that spans a 20-year timeframe will hopefully remove some of the politics and ensure more certainty around infrastructure delivery so that we can plan more effectively for future urban growth and understand our changing populations needs over time with confidence,” UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck said.

“Infrastructure led planning and development ensures that we can deliver major projects in a more coordinated, timely and efficient manner and that means better outcomes for local communities, housing affordability and the broader economy.

“Strategic planning for major infrastructure also ensures the State Government can allocate funding in relevant state budgets in a more transparent and accurate way,” Ms Steinbeck said.

The Strategy contains 93 recommendations covering nine specific infrastructure sectors and seven cross-cutting themes – all divided into short, medium and longer-term timeframes that reach out to 2042.

Particular recommendations that directly impact on the development industry include the preparation and implementation of an urban consolidation action program; embedding rigorous infrastructure appraisal in the planning decision-making framework; ensuring the protection of strategic industrial land uses, infrastructure and resource inputs; and developing and implementing a shared-use policy framework for multi-user infrastructure corridors and facilities.

IWA is now awaiting the State Government’s formal response to their first Strategy, due in the next few months.

“While we can’t speculate on what the response might say, we can say with confidence that we consulted widely over more than two years during the Strategy’s development, visiting all regions of WA to receive feedback from government, industry, academia and the community,” IWA Chief Executive Officer Phil Helberg said.

“IWA has been preparing for this response and is currently working to develop a monitoring and reporting framework to support a transparent and accountable implementation process.

“Once the response is handed down, IWA will look forward to working with the State Government on implementing the recommendations it is responsible for,” Mr Helberg said.

During 2022 the IWA team have also been working on establishing and embedding the organisation’s other legislative functions.

IWA’s Major Infrastructure Proposal Assessment (MIPA) function commenced in January this year.

This function seeks to inform government’s infrastructure investment decisions and enhance the transparency of those decisions. It is also intended to improve the quality of proposals and improve linkages between infrastructure planning and investment.

IWA is also currently assisting the State Government in the preparation of the 10-year State Infrastructure Program (SIP).

“While the Strategy provides the long-term, whole-of-system outlook, the SIP addresses a 10-year timeframe,  outlining the State Government’s significant infrastructure investments, consistent with the State Budget, as well as an overview of expected significant infrastructure needs and challenges over the remaining years. The SIP will be reviewed and updated annually, with IWA required to provide advice to the State Government in its preparation” Mr Helberg said.

“The first SIP will be handed down following the release of next year’s State Budget and will support increased investor confidence and improved alignment and coordination of infrastructure within government.”

IWA also recently completed an intensive period of engagement with over 20 public sector infrastructure agencies to discuss the importance of sound asset management and long-term strategic planning.

Mr Helberg says that this work, which aligns with key recommendations in the Strategy, is critical to helping to improve the availability, quality and sharing of information across government.

One of the key benefits that UDIA WA championed when advocating for the establishment of IWA and a State Infrastructure Strategy, was the potential for an improved pathway for infrastructure business cases to be presented to Infrastructure Australia (IA).

“We felt that WA had been missing out on a fair portion of federal infrastructure funding due to that lack of a dedicated body like IWA,” Ms Steinbeck said.

Mr Helberg advises that IWA has been assisting state agencies to develop their major infrastructure proposals to IA on behalf of the State Government.

He says that IWA maintains a healthy relationship with IA, fostering opportunities to share information, and where beneficial, align approaches across business functions, to develop a community of practice.

“IA and its existing function to assess nationally significant infrastructure proposals certainly played a pivotal role in assisting IWA setting up the MIPA function,” Mr Helberg said.

“IWA has also consulted with IA throughout the development of the Strategy, and in its investigations to address the construction market capacity constraints being experienced across Australia.”

Developing the Strategy during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic has also influenced some of the key factors that have been considered, including improving supply chains, resilience and fast-tracking technology improvements.

Since the release of the Strategy, workforce mobility and access to skilled labour is also a major issue identified that needs to be addressed.

“The Strategy calls for good evidence-based planning and prioritisation, which is now more important than ever,” Mr Helberg said.

“In addition, we have increased our focus on collaboration between industry and government to help address these emerging market capacity constraints.”

Other challenges include embedding the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions into infrastructure decision making; and providing infrastructure that delivers equitable access to social services.

“IWA is committed to a triple bottom line approach, always aiming to improve social, economic and environmental outcomes through its activities and advice,” Mr Helberg said. “This is especially important for those living in the regions and vulnerable members of our community.”

Attracting investment

A significant benefit of having a strategic approach to infrastructure planning and getting a whole of system perspective, is the guidance that provides for future investment decisions.

“Addressing system fundamentals will help to ensure future infrastructure investment decisions are based on quality data and, in the meantime, that the right decisions are made to increase the value received from existing infrastructure assets over the long term,” Mr Helberg said.

“This will be critical in providing long-term confidence and clarity for business and industry who want to invest in our state.

“We acknowledge that continuing to build new infrastructure to meet demand will be challenging, hence the Strategy looks to manage demand through early intervention and optimising the existing infrastructure asset base before simply building new infrastructure,” Mr Helberg said.

Mr Helberg acknowledges that industry has played a vital role in the development of the Strategy, with UDIA WA and many other industry stakeholders participating in the consultation phase.

“Unlike other Australian jurisdictions, the scale of private investment in WA far outweighs the public spend,” Mr Helberg said.

“As such, industry has a pivotal role to play in participating in critical reforms that will make the sector more resilient.

“This includes a commitment to improving culture and wellbeing in the construction sector, investing in new materials and innovation to grow productivity, and responding to emerging environmental challenges.

Ms Steinbeck agrees that industry is a critical stakeholder in the strategic planning and delivery of major infrastructure projects and the knock on impact that has in terms of delivering affordable housing to the wider community.

“The roll out of major infrastructure goes hand in hand with urban growth in our cities and regions,” Ms Steinbeck said.

“Therefore, it is critical that we work together – industry, government and the broader community – to achieve the best possible outcomes for the future of our state.”

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The UDIA’s National Congress will be held between 27 and 29 March this year, with more details available on the UDIA National Congress website.

This story was originally published in The Urbanist magazine, an official publication of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (WA). It has been edited for republication by The Property Tribune. 

The Property Tribune thanks the UDIA WA for the opportunity to republish the work, and share thought leadership in relation to urban development and community creation with our readers.

Read the original copy of The Urbanist by heading to UDIA WA’s website under the News tab.



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