#5 – Aligning Infrastructure for Resilience
Infrastructure increasingly plays a complex role in supporting resilience; however, there is a multitude of organizations that control critical infrastructure in cities. In addition, there is often a lack of collaboration across national, state, and local organizations that limits our understanding and ability to address and mitigate risks. This emphasizes the need to break silos within and between different levels of governance to tackle interconnected challenges together.
The fifth session of 2022 of the Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series focused on the importance of breaking silos between levels of government and shifting the focus from the resilience of infrastructure and assets to how assets contribute to the resilience of the places and regions with their respective interdependencies, or infrastructure for resilience.
For this session we were joined by three representatives of different levels of government, including Rory Butler, the Associate Director for Infrastructure Australia, Kieron Hendicott and Bopha Lam, the Executive Director of Infrastructure Strategy and the Director of Asset Management respectively at Infrastructure New South Wales (INSW) and Beck Dawson, the Chief Resilient Officer for the City of Sydney. Through their interventions, all presenters emphasized that Australia has faced many challenges in recent years including floods, fires and of course the COVID-19 pandemic, all of which, disproportionally affect the most vulnerable communities in the country. In light of these increasing shocks and stresses, resilience has become one of the Australia’s’ key priorities and economic concerns. Rory, illustrated this point by sharing data that indicates natural disasters currently cost Australia 38 billion dollars a year, a number that is expected to increase to 70 billion by 2060, with a large portion of the weight falling on users and taxpayers. In order to mitigate future impacts, it will be critical to shift the focus from resilience of the individual asset to the contribution of the assets to the resilience of the system as a whole, which has proven to be a challenge at all levels. Based on these common agreements, our speakers discussed the work they are leading at each level:
Rory Butler, started of the conversation by sharing the national approach to systemic resilience, starting from the blueprint, the plan and the implementation which involved the collaboration from the government, policy makers, infrastructure planners, the community and taxpayers and users. At the center of the work is the paper A Pathway To Infrastructure Resilience which was co-authored and published with INSW and gathered the input of more than 500 stakeholders. The central finding of this paper indicates the need for new systemic resilience. Parting from this central document, Infrastructure Australia has also worked on transforming opportunities into recommendations with the 2021 Australian Infrastructure Plan which focuses on programmatic reform to drive productivity growth with an investment roadmap and on implementation of said recommendations by offering advice and a facilitation toolkit to effectively navigate said tasks.
Kieron Hendicott and Bopha Lam, from INSW followed Rory´s presentation by sharing the work led at the State Level. During the presentation Bopha talked about the suite of work that INSW leads, including asset management which plays a critical role in building resilience as the state´s assets are rapidly growing adding pressure on asset managers. Given the increasing complexity of the matter and to ensure that the necessary change takes place INSW has put in place an Asset Management Policy and an Assurance Regime to define a standard best practice approach that is intrinsically linked to climate resilient practices. Bopha acknowledged this is still a nascent area where there is still a lot to be done but in agreeance with Rory, she said the key priority now is to explore how best to help agencies apply resilience practice into how they do things for the benefit of the community. INSW closed their intervention by highlighting the importance of the work done with R-Cities and Infrastructure Australia to understand what the next practical steps need to be to truly lead meaningful change at the state level and beyond.
Our final speaker Beck Dawson, shared the important work the city of Sydney is leading at a local level with Infrastructure for Resilient Places leading practical activities on the ground in alliance with the Resilient Cities Network, INSW and with the support of Citi Foundation. This work has two key outputs Guidance for Asset Managers and the Asset interdependency and Resilience Assessment Tool. This tool was created to understand and identify interdependencies at the asset organizational and community level as well as ‘consequence criterions’ for asset managers which serve as a guide and a threshold to help define priorities and aid decision making. Beck assured that even if this is an important step, it is the first of many to build resilience. The program, currently is focusing on implementing pilots with state agencies and local councils as well as sharing the learnings with industry bodies, private sector, and global cities. As a final remark Beck stated that in the long run, the big game will be to take this work across states so that the Federal and State governments can start to lead assessments and make decisions across regions on a comparable basis with a community led approach focused on what really matters.
To wrap up the session we were joined by two insightful panelists that reacted to our presenter´s interventions, offering their expert perspectives on the matter. Brian Strong, Chief Resilience Officer of the City of San Francisco & Member, FEMA National Advisory Council Infrastructure Protection Selection and Monica Bennett, Director of Thought Leadership at Global Infrastructure Hub. They emphasized the challenges of aligning resilience for infrastructure at different levels of government successfully, applauding what had been achieved in Australia, really important, especially with the complexity of infrastructures both from who are the players and how they service communities. They also highlighted the importance of working on providing innovative approaches and investment opportunities that flow into the right kind of projects to truly build infrastructure for resilience.
Associate Director, Infrastructure Australia
“Australia has had to navigate several catastrophic events in the past year. We set to ask ourselves ‘what role does resilience play in infrastructure and how do we build community resilience?”
Executive Director, Infrastructure Strategy, Infrastructure New South Wales
Director of Asset Management, Infrastructure New South Wales
“It is important to take a systems approach to shift focus from the resilience of the asset to the contribution of the assets to the resilience of the system – or infrastructure for resilience”
Chief Resilient Officer, City of Sydney
“What our assets are connected to matter as much as the asset itself”
Chief Resilience Officer, City of San Francisco & Member, FEMA National Advisory Council Infrastructure Protection Selection
“Accountability in an area that we really struggle with. It’s great to talk about how we can go to the community and get their feedback, but accountability is needed to determine who is going to take responsibility for what they hear gets implemented and that resources go in this direction”
Director of Thought Leadership at Global Infrastructure Hub
“A big focus that we are looking at is being able to bridge the investment gap, meaning having the money but also having the money flowing to the right kind of investments at speed and scale. We have some very substantial targets to meet by 2030″