Infrastructure Australia charts a pathway to infrastructure resilience

Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew
Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew.

The events of recent years such as global pandemic, bushfires, droughts, floods, other extreme weather events and cyber threats) have again highlighted Australia’s vulnerability to natural and non-natural threats and their social, environmental and economic impacts.

By 2050, the annual economic cost of natural disasters in Australia is expected to more than double – from an average of $18 billion per year to more than $39 billion per year. In New South Wales, the expected total economic costs of natural disasters are projected to increase from $5.1 billion in 2020-21 to between $15.8 billion and $17.2 billion (real 2019-20 dollars) per year by 2061.

Increasing frequency and severity of shocks and stresses – in part due to the effects of climate change – will test our collective capacity to cope as their cumulative impact becomes more likely to exceed our limits.

Infrastructure Australia has outlined practical steps to deliver infrastructure that is more resilient to threats such as bushfires, droughts, floods, global pandemic, and cyber-attacks, in new advisory papers developed in partnership with Infrastructure NSW.

A Pathway to Infrastructure Resilience, developed through collaboration with 600 experts from across Australia, recommends a whole-of-system, all-hazards approach to resilience planning that focuses on strengthening an infrastructure asset, network and sector, as well as the place, precinct, city, and region that the infrastructure operates within.

It aims to create resilient communities that can resist, absorb, accommodate, recover, transform and thrive in response to the effects of shocks and stresses in a timely, efficient manner to enable sustainable economic, social, environmental and governance outcomes.

“The events of recent years have brought Australia’s vulnerability to threats such as bushfires, droughts, floods, pandemic and cyber-attack into sharp relief. The impact on many communities has been devastating, however we also have a real opportunity to learn from these challenges and ensure our infrastructure can better withstand disruption and adapt to shocks and stresses,” Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive Romilly Madew said.

“We encourage all levels of government, communities, industry and academia to build on and make use of this research,” she said.

The Pathway to Infrastructure Resilience research project has delivered two papers. The first paper  identifies 10 directions for transformational and systemic change in infrastructure planning to achieve infrastructure for resilience. Advisory Paper 2 identifies a series of short-term actions for asset owners and operators as the first steps towards this change.

The recommendations are informed by The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangement, The National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, the independent NSW Bushfire Inquiry and a series of 16 stakeholder workshops.

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